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in  2011  with  funding  from 

LYRASIS  IVIembers  and  Sloan  Foundation 



HARVEST  IN  THE  DESERT  (1944,    1945) 


WEB  OF  LUCIFER  (1947) 

These  are  borzoi  books, 
published  in  New  York  by  Alfred  A.  Knopf 


Little  Did  I  Know 





























il^A      @ 


Recollections  and  Reflections 

Maurice  Samuel 




L.  C.  catalog  card  number:  63-17832 


Copyright  @  1963  by  Maurice  Samuel.  All  rights 
reserved.  No  part  of  this  book  may  be  reproduced  in 
any  form  without  permission  in  writing  from  the 
publisher,  except  by  a  reviewer,  who  may  quote 
brief  passages  in  a  review  to  be  printed  in  a  maga- 
zine or  newspaper.  Manufactured  in  the  United 
States  of  America,  and  distributed  by  Random 
House,  Inc.  Published  simultaneously  in  Toronto, 
Canada,  by  Random  House  of  Canada,  Limited. 


A  portion  of  Chapter  XVIII  appeared  under  the 
title  "The  Maggid"  in  Midstream. 


Most  of  the  following  pages  were  written,  in  their 
original  form,  during  the  summer  of  1 96 1 .  I  have  added 
and  changed  much  since  then,  but  always  in  the  spirit 
of  the  first  draft,  so  that  the  additions  and  changes  are  a 
prolongation  and  clarification  of  a  mood.  This  is  the 
only  artifice  I  have  employed;  everything  here  recorded 
is  as  faithful  to  fact  as  copious  notes  and  a  self-serving 
memory  can  make  it. 

A  small  part  of  the  material  was  published  long  ago; 
another  part,  more  recently.  In  a  few  places  I  have 
dipped  into  my  own  books.  For  permission  to  re-use 
larger  or  smaller  fragments  of  my  articles  I  wish  to  thank 
the  following  periodicals:  Commentary,  The  Congress 
Bi-Weekly,  Harper's  Magazine,  The  Jewish  Frontier, 
Midstream,  and  The  New  Palestine.  For  permission  to 
quote  I  am  also  indebted  to  Harper  and  Brothers,  New 
York  {Trial  and  Error,  the  Autobiography  of  Chaim 
Weizmann);  Atheneum,  New  York  (Chaim  Weizmann, 
A  Biography);  Ryerson  Press,  Toronto  (The  Rocking 
Chair  and  Other  Poems,  by  A.  M.  Klein);  Reynal  Sc 
Company,  New  York  (Felix  Frankfurter  Reminisces). 
The  material  quoted  from  The  World's  Work  was  later 
used  by  the  late  Ambassador  Morgenthau  in  his  autobio- 
graphical All  in  a  Lifetime. 

®   Vll    ^ 


Part  I     Descent  to  the  Beginning 


My  Virgilian  Uncle 


Time  Present,  Place  Here 


The  Twig  Is  Bent 




The  Clan 




The  Fathers  of  the  Clan 




Our  Shtetl  Roots 


Time  Present,  Place  Here 







Part  2     Cities  and  Men 

XI.  The  Eruption  159 

XII.  Chaim  Weizmann  I'jg 

XIII.  The  Scientist  202 

XIV.  Founding  Fathers  210 
XV.  Of  an  Old  Tragedy  and  a  Bitter  Farce  226 

XVI.  Hieroselyma  Est  Perdita  254 

XVII.  "Writer  and  Lecturer"  266 

XVIII.  The  Maggid  286 

Epilogue  of  High  Moments  310 


PART   1 


Descent  to  the  Beginning 

m  3  ® 


My  Virgilian  Uncle 



.mong  the  people  who  rise  out  of  my  past  to  claim 
first  mention  in  this  book,  my  uncle  Berel  is  the  most  per- 
sistent. This  would  have  surprised  him.  He  played  only  a 
brief  role  in  my  life,  and  had  no  idea  that  it  was  of  any  im- 
portance. He  must  have  supposed — if  he  ever  thought 
about  it  at  all — that  when  he  was  dead  and  gone  I  would 
call  him  to  mind  affectionately  now  and  again,  but  less  and 
less  frequently,  less  and  less  clearly,  as  the  years  passed;  and 
that  by  the  time  I  reached  his  age  he  would  be  among  the 
ghostliest  of  my  memories.  I,  for  my  part,  surely  did  not 
look  so  far  ahead;  but  now  I  am  much  older  than  he  was 
at  the  time  of  our  intimacy,  and  I  find  myself  thinking 
about  him  more  and  more  frequently,  and  seeing  him  more 
and  more  clearly.  It  is,  in  fact,  impossible  to  disallow  his 

So  there  he  is,  Uncle  Berel,  my  mother's  brother,  Berel 
Acker,  the  tailor,  who  does  very  little  tailoring,  making 
most  of  his  living,  such  as  it  is,  from  repairing,  cleaning, 
and  pressing.  I  usually  see  him  in  profile,  at  his  work 
table  before  the  window  facing  north  on  grimy  East  Fif- 
teenth Street,  between  First  and  Second  Avenues,  while  I 
sit  at  his  right,  and  we  carry  on  long  conversations  which 


on  his  side  are  punctuated  by  what  are  known  as  Bronx 
cheers.  He  is  in  the  late  forties;  he  has  a  squat  figure,  a 
round,  brown,  wrinkled  face  with  Tartar  cheekbones  and 
overhanging  mustaches.  He  chews  an  extinguished  cigar 
stump,  and  his  little  brown  eyes  twinkle  when  he  turns  to 
make  a  point.  The  Bronx  cheers  are  not  derisive;  they  are 
modest,  mechanical,  and  professional;  he  produces  them  by 
taking  a  sip  of  water  from  the  glass  on  his  left  and,  with  a 
circular  flourish  of  his  bowed  white  head,  spraying  from 
between  pursed  lips  the  skirt  or  pants  he  is  pressing  by 
hand.  He  ought  to  have  a  pressing  machine,  but  for  various 
reasons  he  has  never  managed  to  save  up  the  price;  and 
among  these  reasons  is  an  admitted  disquiet  of  soul  in  the 
presence  of  a  New  World  innovation  which  would  sever 
another  bond  between  him  and  the  good  old  days  in 
Rumania,  where  he  was  born  and  grew  up. 

There  is  a  constant  tug  of  war  between  Uncle  Berel  and 
me.  He  wants  to  talk  about  things  he  thinks  I  know,  and  I 
want  to  hear  him  on  things  I  know  he  knows.  He  would 
like  me  to  clarify  for  him  once  and  for  all  how  they 
measure  the  circumference  of  the  earth  and  the  earth's 
distance  from  the  sun;  or  how  a  microscope  magnifies;  or 
how  one  can  reconcile  the  obvious  uncertainty  of  man's 
life  with  the  obvious  solvency  of  insurance  companies.  I 
keep  steering  him  toward  the  details  of  his  occupation 
and  his  memories  of  Rumania. 

Uncle  Berel  is  a  mixture  of  shrewd  realism  and  uncon- 
trollable sentimentality.  He  is  a  meditative  man  from  two 
consecutive  and  contradictory  causes.  His  wife  (I  barely  saw 
her  in  America,  she  died  soon  after  my  arrival)  was  homi- 
cidally talkative  and  threw  him  back  on  himself;  now  he  is 
a  not  disconsolate  widower  and  much  alone.  He  is  a  sharp 
observer  and  a  close  reasoner;  but  he  also  has  fantasy.  He 
hangs  his  customers  on  the  rack  in  provocative  combina- 



tions:  Mr.  Michelson  the  grocer  next  to  Mrs.  Tuchverder- 
ber  the  matchmaker,  a  priest's  soutane  next  to  a  rabbinic 
kaftan.  He  would  make  a  good  novelist,  though  he  did  not 
get  more  than  a  cheder  (elementary  Hebrew  school)  educa- 
tion, has  never  made  a  formal  improvement  on  it,  and 
speaks  only  Yiddish  and  Rumanian.  When  I  suggest  in  all 
seriousness  that  he  could  produce,  if  not  a  novel,  then  a 
new  and  homely  Sartor  Resartus,  and  explain  that  it  is  a 
sort  of  philosophy  of  clothes,  he  says:  "Beh!  A  philosophy 
of  shmattes,  rags,  maybe,  if  I  were  a  writer  like  you."  For  I 
am  already  a  writer,  a  fact  attested  by  an  impressive  col- 
lection of  rejection  slips. 

"Very  good.  Uncle  Berel!  A  philosophy  of  old  clothes. 
There  have  been  so  many  Jewish  old  clo'  men;  it's  a  tradi- 

"Maybe  you're  having  a  little  joke  with  me,"  he  answers. 
"And  yet  what  I  do  here  is  no  small  matter.  Here  comes  an 
old  suit,  a  beggar,  a  scarecrow,  fit  for  the  garbage  can.  I 
take  nothing  in  my  hand,  as  you  might  say,  just  a  spit  of 
water  and  a  hot  iron.  I  neither  add  to  the  cloth  nor  sub- 
tract from  it,  I  make  a  flipflop  with  the  iron  and  hopla! 
there's  your  suit,  a  regular  gentleman" — but  he  says 
"gentledendle,"  to  indicate  disesteem — "not  to  be  recog- 
nized. A  resurrection  for  the  sleeper  in  the  dust,  as  the 
siddur  (prayerbook)  says.  And  the  things  I  learn  about 
customers,  even  if  I've  never  met  them  and  somebody 
brings  their  clothes  to  me,  the  things  I  learn — oh,  ho! 
Black  coffee  beans  in  the  pants  pockets — he  chews  them  to 
cover  his  breath,  because  he  drinks  and  he's  afraid  of  his 
wife;  cigarette  butts  in  the  vest  pockets — a  miserly  soul; 
chewed  toothpicks — nervousness,  bad  manners,  and  close- 
set  teeth.  And  the  stains!  A  world  of  stains,  from  the  lapels 
to  the  pants  cuffs;  and  what  they  sometimes  tell  you  isn't 
fit  to  be  spoken  of.  Has  your  writer  friend — " 



"Carlyle— " 

"Has  he  anything  to  say  about  that?" 

"Not  that  I  remember." 

He  removes  the  cigar  stump,  sips  water,  and  swoops 
down  over  the  table  like  a  benevolent  hawk,  reminding  me 
of  Dante's  "Ha!  Ha!  Thou  stoopest!"  Emptied,  he  tries  to 
switch  the  conversation;  if  not  Carlyle,  then  something 
about  actuarial  tables;  but  my  Yiddish  is  defective,  I  am 
relearning  it  after  years  of  alienation;  and  I  was  never 
very  good  at  mathematics.  I  push  him  back  to  his  old 
clothes.  It  turns  out  that  in  his  own  way  he  feels  actuarially 
and  has  formulated  for  himself  a  version  of  Emerson's  Law 
of  Compensation. 

He  feels  himself  to  be  a  sort  of  economic  barometer,  or, 
rather,  a  recorder  of  barometric  readings.  Mr.  Michelson's 
grocery  store  is  the  barometer,  and  the  mercury  Uncle  Berel 
watches  is  represented  by  Mr.  Michelson's  suits.  When  the 
operators,  cutters,  hat-makers,  pressers,  and  salesgirls  on 
the  block  are  out  of  work  or  on  part-time,  their  diet  is  low 
in  lox  and  high  in  potatoes;  then  Mr.  Michelson's  takings 
are  poor  and  his  suits  lose  heart  and  acquire  lustre  in 
longer  absences.  When  times  are  good  and  lox  is  again  in 
the  ascendant,  Mr.  Michelson's  suits  pick  up  joie  de  vivre 
and  come  in  as  often  as  every  other  Thursday.  But  there  is 
more  to  it  than  that. 

"I  tell  you,"  says  Uncle  Berel,  "it  is  a  marvelous  world.  I 
stand  here  and  reckon  it  out.  When  people  are  out  of  work 
they  don't  have  their  clothes  mended  and  pressed  very 
often,  and  therefore  I  too  earn  less,  which  is  only  right. 
Good!  But  you  might  think  I  am  in  danger  of  starving  to 
death.  Not  at  all!  For  if  people  have  no  jobs  they  can't 
buy  new  clothes;  so  the  suits  and  skirts  grow  older  and 
older,  and  it  has  been  cleverly  arranged  that  the  older  they 
get  the  more  often  they  need  mending  and  pressing.  The 
mind  of  man  can't  look  through  the  deepness  of  it  all." 


On  certain  subjects  Uncle  Berel  and  I  are  so  hopelessly 
divided  that  we  have  dropped  them  by  tacit  consent.  I  am  a 
newly  converted — self-converted — Zionist.  I  believe  that 
some  day,  all  going  reasonably  well,  we  shall  have  a  Jewish 
homeland  in  Palestine.  It  depends  largely  on  us.  Uncle 
Berel  is  immovably  skeptical.  The  division,  to  mix  a 
metaphor,  is  an  impasse.  "Yes,  we  will."  "No,  we  won't." 
"Why  won't  we?"  "Beh!  For  one  thing,  they  won't  let  us." 
Who  are  "they"?  Uncle  Berel  makes  an  impatient  gesture 
with  the  flatiron,  giving  it  a  little  rapid  clockwise  and 
counter-clockwise  flip  before  he  plumps  it  down;  that  is  all 
he  can  do,  for  though  his  emotions  are  strong  the  flatiron 
is  heavy.  "Everybody!"  But  his  skepticism  is  not  hostile. 
When  the  issue  was  first  raised  between  us  he  admitted  that 
he  too  had  once  dreamed  dreams,  but  they  had  faded  away, 
or  rather  had  been  extinguished  suddenly. 

"Once  upon  a  time,  years  and  years  ago,  when  Theo- 
dore Herzl" — he  pronounced  it  "Todder" — "was  alive, 
I  thought  for  a  moment,  yes,  maybe  it  will  happen.  There 
is  a  man  who  is  received  by  kings  and  sultans.  That  must 
have  meant  something.  They  knew  him  for  what  he  was. 
A  Prince.  It  was  a  sudden  light,  and  it  went  out.  That's  the 
kind  of  luck  we  have.  Now  it's  farfallen,  done  for,  not 
hashert,  not  destined.  Today — tremendous  nations  locked 
in  a  life-and-death  struggle" — it  was  the  winter  of  1914- 
1915 — "where  do  we  Yiddalach  come  in?  I  respect  you, 
you've  been  to  college,  but  on  this  matter,  if  you'll  pardon 
me  .  .  .  Who's  going  to  lead  us  now?" 

I  too  revered  the  name  of  Herzl,  though  I  knew  little, 
at  that  time,  about  the  personality — royal  indeed — fusion 
of  sophisticated  Viennese  journalist.  Messianic  prophet, 
and  master  organizer — who  within  a  decade  of  his  death 
had  become  folklore.  But  I  gave  Uncle  Berel  names,  which 
he  shrugged  off.  "Do  you  call  that  a  Herzl?"  The  greatest 
among  the  Zionist  leaders  who  were  then  arising  I  did  not 


mention,  though  I  had  met  him  in  person.  My  ignorance 
of  the  Zionist  movement  was  extensive.  I  had  no  idea  of 
the  role  Chaim  Weizmann  had  played  and  was  playing  in 
it.  How,  then,  was  I  to  guess  that  a  still  greater  role 
awaited  him,  or,  even  more  remote  from  probability,  that 
he  would  admit  me  to  his  friendship  and  exercise  a  far- 
ranging  influence  on  my  life? 

Another  subject  I  soon  learned  to  avoid  with  Uncle 
Berel  was  socialism.  Here  I  cannot  speak  of  a  division; 
Uncle  Berel  simply  wasn't  interested.  My  fierce  insistence 
on  the  equality  of  all  men  elicited  from  him  not  a  repudia- 
tive  squiggle  of  the  flatiron  but  a  meditative  "Mm — nn — 
yeh!,"  neither  approving  nor  disapproving,  followed  by  a 
long  silence.  At  that  point,  I  believe.  Uncle  Berel's  respect 
for  my  college  education  was  weaker  than  usual.  I  left  it 
at  that. 

I  think  of  Uncle  Berel  as  Virgilian  because  he  was  for 
a  period  my  guide  through  various  limbos  of  folk  and 
family  memories.  I  responded  to  them  as  a  fascinated  out- 
sider, for  though  they  were  mine  I  was  detached  from 
them;  nearly  half  a  century  had  to  pass  before  those  of 
the  memories  which  I  shared  with  him  (I  migrated  in  1 900 
from  Rumania,  where  he  was  a  frequent  visitor  at  our 
home,  at  the  age  of  five)  became  something  more  than  dis- 
connected little  pictures  in  a  gallery,  and  fused  into  a  deep- 
toned,  mysterious,  and  magic  interior  totality.  When  I  was 
nineteen  my  childhood  seemed  to  me  to  have  been  some- 
body else's,  and  it  is  only  recently  that  I  feel  it  to  be  more 
visibly  and  palpably  mine  than  it  was  then  or  during  the 
intervening  years.  There  was,  to  be  sure,  much  talk  at 
home,  in  Manchester,  about  Rumania;  Uncle  Berel,  how- 
ever, did  not  merely  talk  about  it;  he  conducted  me  into 



He  had  a  ritual.  Every  Saturday  night,  whether  his  ba- 
rometer stood  at  Fair  or  Foul,  he  went  to  a  "service"  at  a 
certain  little  Rumanian  Jewish  restaurant  on  the  lower 
East  Side.  (I  have  forgotten  its  name,  and  it  surely  closed 
its  doors  long  ago.)  It  was  nothing  like  Moskowitz's  famous 
rendezvous,  then  on  Houston  Street.  The  premises  were 
a  basement  four  steps  below  the  dirty  street  level;  there 
was  no  instrumental  music;  the  prices  were  modest.  Uncle 
Berel's  fellow-celebrants  were  all  Rumanian  Jews,  elderly 
tailors,  shoemakers,  candy-store  keepers,  machinists,  press- 
ers,  who  knew  each  other  from  of  old  by  first  name  and 
the  name  of  the  town  or  village  of  origin:  Leibu  of 
Macheen*  and  Itzik  of  Pitchiniagu  and  Getzel  of  Barlad 
and  Moishe  of  Glodorlui  and  Chaim  of  Podoturk  and 
Mendel  of  Fokoshan.  Ostensibly — and,  as  far  as  their 
consciousness  went,  genuinely — they  assembled  to  eat 
karnatzlech,  beigalech,  mammaligge,  and  kachkeval,  to 
drink  what  they  called  and  apparently  believed  to  be  Ru- 
manian wine,  and  to  play  sixty-six  and  tablenette.  They 
spoke  Yiddish  peppered  with  Rumanian  phrases,  and  the 
conversation  reverted  in  rhythms  to  old  times.  They  re- 
membered the  Chismijui  of  Bukarest,  and  the  Red  Bridge 
of  Yasse,  and  the  shool  (synagogue)  of  Vaslui.  (But  they 
said  sheel  for  shool,  whereas  I,  relearning  my  Yiddish 
among  Litvaks — Lithuanian  Jews — here  in  America,  said, 
and  still  say  shool;  I  also  say  man  (husband)  instead  of  the 
Rumanian  Yiddish  mon^  and  veib  (wife)  instead  of  vaah: 
I  sometimes  even  slip  into  die  before  veib,  that  is,  I  use 
the  feminine  article  instead  of  the  neuter,  Litvak  Yiddish 
having  no  neuter  article  and  veib  being  perversely  neuter 
in  Rumanian  Yiddish,  as  in  German.)  From  time  to  time 
Uncle  Berel  took  me  with  him,  and  I  enjoyed  it  intensely, 

•  Throughout  these  pages,  as  an  act  of  piety,  I  reproduce  Rumanian  names 
and  words  phonetically,  Macheen  for  Macin,  etc.  I  have  identified  the 
places  on  the  map  but  cannot  bring  myself  to  distort  them  back  into  ac- 
curacy; so  also  with  certain  nouns. 


as  observer  rather  than  as  participant.  To  my  uncom- 
mitted and  unenchanted  palate  karnatzlech  were  simply 
cigar-shaped  rolls  of  chopped  meat,  overspiced  and  under- 
done; beigalech  (not  to  be  confused  with  heigel,  which 
has  been  described  as  a  doughnut  dipped  in  cement) 
were  merely  meat  patties,  mammaligge  a  cornmush  cake, 
kachkeval  a  rank  cheese,  none  of  them  particularly  ap- 
petizing. To  Uncle  Berel  and  his  cronies  these  foods  were 
sanctities;  it  was  not  an  ordinary  eating  and  drinking; 
they  ate  and  drank  time,  they  smacked  their  lips  over  the 
pathos  of  distance  and  irretrievability;  their  tastebuds  had 
transcended  their  neural  functions,  serving  as  ministrants 
to  the  sweet  melancholy  of  divided  and  uprooted  souls. 

I  have  long  wanted  to  write  about  these  and  other  spirit- 
ual-associational  values  of  food.  It  is  not  language  alone,  or 
even  chiefly,  that  distinguishes  man  from  the  animals.  A 
goat  crops  the  grass  but  a  man  ingests  the  landscape  and 
the  heavens  above  it,  and  even  a  solitary  meal  can  be  an 

One  would  have  thought  that  these  emotions  were  asso- 
ciated for  Uncle  Berel  and  his  cronies  with  the  exile's 
vain-longing  for  the  land  of  his  birth,  with  remembered 
joys  of  a  time  and  place,  both  lost  forever.  In  Uncle  Berel's 
case  it  was  certainly  nothing  of  the  sort.  He  hated  Rumania 
and  never  had  a  good  word  for  it.  He  had  grown  up  in  a 
period  of  mounting  Rumanian  anti-Semitism.  When  he 
was  a  young  man,  thousands  of  Rumanian  Jews  were  being 
driven  from  the  country  by  poverty  and  repression.  (Oh, 
idyllic,  halcyon  days,  when  Jews  were  driven  from  a  coun- 
try instead  of  being  incinerated  in  it — if  only  Uncle  Berel 
could  have  known  how  considerate  the  Rumanians  were!) 
Many  of  those  who  could  not  buy  railroad  tickets,  or  even 
hire  a  horse  and  cart,  had  formed  into  large  groups  which 
wandered  westward  on  foot,  begging  their  way,  singing 



songs  which  have  now  become  a  little  segment  of  the  folk- 
lore. Uncle  Berel  had  started  out  with  one  such  group  and 
had  turned  back,  but  whether  it  was  his  feet  or  his  voice 
that  gave  out  I  do  not  know.  He  became  a  tailor,  made 
enough  money  to  buy  passage  for  himself  and  his  family 
as  far  as  England,  and  later  was  helped  on  to  America. 
Why  did  he,  like  the  other  frequenters  of  that  restaurant, 
seem  to  hark  back  to  a  time  of  good  eating  and  drinking, 
a  time  of  high  living  and  contentment?  It  was  a  psycho- 
optical  illusion.  These  were  the  foods  they  had  loved  and 
never  had  enough  of;  what  they  harked  back  to  was  simply 
their  youth. 

Uncle  Berel  put  up  a  fight  against  the  illusion.  "What 
black  year  is  it,"  he  asked,  wrathfully,  "that  makes  me  want 
to  shed  tears  of  love  for  Rumania  when  I  hear  a  Rumanian 
song?  Vulech  gonef!  (Wallachian  rogue!)  who  didn't  let  a 
human  being  live!  Vulech  gonef!  With  his  'Hey,  Zhidan!' 
(sheeny!)  and  his  'Don't  stand  here!'  and  'Keep  out  of 
there!'  "  And  once  he  flabbergasted  me  by  an  extraordin- 
ary outburst  quite  out  of  keeping  with  his  native  good 
humor.  There  was  a  fat  woman  singer  in  our  little  restau- 
rant. She  sang  Yiddish  and  Rumanian  songs,  without  ac- 
companiment; the  former  I  understood,  and  some  of  them, 
like  A  Brievalle  der  Mammen  (Send  Your  Mother  a  Letter) 
and  Eli,  Eli  (My  God,  My  God,  Why  Has  Thou  Forsaken 
Me?)  were  dreadful;  others,  from  Goldfaden  and  the  folk- 
repertoire,  were  often  beautiful.  The  Rumanian  songs  I 
did  not  understand,  and  why  on  that  evening  that  particu- 
lar song  did  what  it  did  to  Uncle  Berel  I  shall  never  know. 
I  was  watching  him  and  saw  his  eyes  becoming  moist;  sud- 
denly he  stood  up,  drew  a  fifty-cent  piece  from  his  pocket, 
and  hurled  it  across  the  room  through  the  open  door  onto 
the  steps,  whence  it  bounced  back  with  a  shrill  ringing. 
"Na  dir,  kurveh! — take  it,  whore!"  howled  Uncle  Berel. 



The  woman  continued  to  sing  as  she  made  for  the  coin, 
and  Uncle  Berel  sat  down,  quivering. 

He  resented  Rumania's  shameless  gate-crashing  into  his 
loving  reveries  of  the  past;  it  was  a  parasitic  and  defiling 
intrusion.  But  once  he  was  launched  on  a  sentimental 
binge  Rumania  always  nicked  in  for  an  utterly  unmerited 
place.  He  saw  it,  and  was  helpless  to  prevent  it.  It  was 
as  though  a  refugee  from  a  German  death  camp,  sole  sur- 
vivor of  a  large  family,  were  to  hear  a  performer  in  a 
cabaret  singing  an  innocent  German  folk  song,  and  weep 
because  it  reminded  him  of  his  childhood.  Uncle  Berel  also 
chided  himself,  with  the  same  clear-sighted  helplessness, 
for  his  disinclination  toward  a  pressing  machine.  He  was 
a  believer  in  Americanism  and  progress,  but  his  heart  was 
stuck  in  the  past;  and  what  sharpened  his  resentment  was 
his  view  of  Rumania  as  the  very  embodiment  of  willful 
backwardness  and  moral  beastliness. 

"A  stinking  land!"  he  said.  "Not  the  land  itself,  which 
is  lovely  enough — such  a  year  on  all  of  us! — but  the  peo- 
ple. No,  not  the  people,  the  cham,  the  tzaran  (peasant),  the 
stupid  mass,  but  the  preetzim  (the  aristocracy  and  the  rich), 
the  government,  which  keep  them  ignorant  and  brutish. 
Not  for  nothing  did  your  mother  carry  on  to  make  your 
father  leave  the  country,  so  that  your  brothers  and  you 
wouldn't  have  to  be  Rumanian  soldiers.  Ask  your  father 
what  that  meant." 

I  knew  something  about  "that,"  but  there  was  an  odd 
difference-in-agreement  between  my  father's  way  of  telling 
it  and  Uncle  Berel's.  My  father  had  served  in  a  Rumanian 
cavalry  regiment  called  (as  he  pronounced  it)  the 
Rawooshoren.  There  were  at  home,  in  Manchester,  two 
photographs  of  him  in  uniform,  and  in  the  larger,  tinted 
one  he  was  heroically  mounted,  resplendent  in  uniform, 
sabre  and  all.  He  had  risen  to  the  rank  of  sergeant,  a 



considerable  achievement  for  a  penniless  Jew.  As  a  child 
I  had  not  been  able  to  reconcile  the  dashing  hero  on 
horseback  with  the  rather  grim  and  frustrated  shoemaker 
who  was  my  father.  The  stories  he  told  of  his  service  were 
hair-raising  and  if  only  half  true  more  than  justified  my 
mother's  terrors  and  Uncle  Berel's  animadversions.  The 
savagery  of  the  non-coms  toward  the  privates  was  equalled 
by  the  contempt  of  the  officers  for  both.  An  unbridled 
sadism  passed  for  discipline,  and  the  quartermaster's  serv- 
ice was  corrupt  through  all  its  levels,  so  that  the  uniforms 
were  ragged  and  the  food,  poor  enough  by  regulation,  was 
tampered  with.  I  grew  up  with  the  notion  that  the  Ruman- 
ian army  was  a  hell.  I  suppose  it  couldn't  have  been  as 
bad  as  all  that — and  yet  a  strange  incident  interpolates 
itself  at  this  point. 

I  was  in  Paris,  on  leave,  in  the  spring  of  1919,  a  sergeant 
in  the  A.E.F.,  waiting  for  my  demobilization.  Coming 
late  one  night  out  of  the  Rat  Mort  on  the  boulevard 
Clichy,  I  was  accosted  under  a  lamp  by  two  Rumanian 
officers.  Their  lips  were  rouged,  their  eyes  ringed  with 
mascara.  I  had  the  impression  that  they  wore  corsets.  They 
said  something  to  me  in  Rumanian,  and  I  recognized  an 
obscene  word  I  had  heard  from  older  people  in  our  Man- 
chester group.  I  started  back  with  such  terror  and  loathing 
that  they  in  turn  started  back  from  me  and  made  off,  laugh- 
ing vilely.  I  wanted  them  to  know  that  I  had  understood 
them,  and  I  wanted  also  to  insult  them.  So  I  shouted 
after  them:  "Hey,  Zhidan!"  It  was  the  only  offensive 
Rumanian  word  I  could  think  of.  There  may  have  been  a 
second  purpose,  to  this  effect:  "And  you're  the  people  who 
despise  Jews  and  call  them  Zhidan."  It  is  of  course  absurd 
to  base  one's  judgment  on  a  few  reports  and  individual 
episodes — but  I  am  recording  my  experiences  and  nothing 



With  all  his  acknowledgment  of  the  ghastly  conditions 
in  the  Rumanian  army,  my  father  remembered  his  soldier 
days  with  pride.  And  when  England  declared  war  on 
Germany  in  1914,  and  I  as  a  pacifist  refused  to  join  up, 
my  father  was  contemptuous  of  me.  I  also  refused  to  re- 
main in  England  while  others  were  enlisting  (conscription 
did  not  come  till  two  years  later).  In  November  1914  I 
left  for  America;  my  mother  rejoiced;  Uncle  Berel,  for 
his  part,  approved  wholeheartedly. 

"You  couldn't  have  done  a  more  sensible  thing.  I  only 
wish  the  Jews  could  all  get  out  of  Europe,  instead  of  having 
to  shoot  at  each  other,  mir  nisht,  dir  nisht,  because  goyim 
like  to  fight.  They've  always  been  at  it,  and  they  always 
will  be.  Ich  hob  sei  alle  in  d'rerd — they  can  all  go  to  hell." 

By  the  spring  of  1917  my  views  had  changed  and  my 
pacifism  was  tottering.  I  had  become  anti-German,  and 
though  not  an  American  citizen,  I  could  see  where  I  would 
stand  if  America  entered  the  war.  I  had  to  prepare  Uncle 
Berel;  so  there  were  sharp  exchanges,  and  it  almost  came 
to  a  quarrel. 

"What  do  you  mean,  Germany  is  the  aggressor?"  asked 
Uncle  Berel.  "What  kind  of  language  is  that  from  you} 
England  has  a  lot  of  colonies,  Germany  has  hardly  any, 
and  she  wants  her  share.  You're  a  socialist  and  a  Zionist, 
aren't  you?  You  believe  all  men  and  all  nations  should  be 

"There  shouldn't  be  any  colonies.  Uncle  Berel." 

"Right.  But  there  are  colonies.  What  difference  does 
it  make  to  you  who  has  them?"  He  would  break  into  the 
peculiar  Yiddish  singsong  of  logical  discourse  which  has 
passed  from  the  Talmudists  to  the  folk.  "I-if  there  were  no 
colonies  at  all,  and  i-if  Germany  were  going  out  to  get 
some,  I  would  say  that  Germany  had  to  be  stopped."  He 
added,  hastily:  "Maybe,"  fearing  he  had  yielded  a  strong 


interior  position  on  which  he  might  have  to  fall  back  later. 
"As  it  is,  you  want  to  defend  an  old  thief  from  a  young 

"Let  it  be  so.  Uncle  Berel.  I  say  an  old  thief  is  better 
than  a  young  thief.  He's  tired,  and  his  conscience  bothers 
him,  and  he  wants  to  make  amends  and  be  respectable. 
When  he  dies  and  there's  no  one  to  inherit  he  leaves  his 
money  to  charity.  He  even  practices  charity  before  dying. 
A  young  thief  has  a  fresh  appetite;  you  can't  let  him  start 
the  whole  dirty  business  all  over  again." 

"I  don't  see  your  old  thief  in  such  a  state  of  exhaustion," 
said  Uncle  Berel,  sarcastically.  "According  to  the  papers, 
he's  giving  as  good  as  he's  getting." 

That  was  how  the  main  arguments  went.  Uncle  Berel 
repeating  "Ich  hob  sei  alle  in  d'rerd"  and  I  insisting  that 
"they"  were  not  all  alike.  I  had  forebodings  about  Ger- 
many, though  perhaps  not  clearly  on  Jewish  grounds.  We 
skirmished  on  the  question  of  "atrocities,"  which  Uncle 
Berel  laughed  off  as  propaganda.  Behind  the  spoken  argu- 
ments were  emotions  we  could  not  refer  to;  Uncle  Berel 
was  as  fond  of  me  as  I  of  him;  he  trembled  for  me,  and  he 
felt  some  responsibility  toward  my  mother.  I  knew  I  was 
going  to  disappoint  and  grieve  both  of  them. 

Then  America  entered  the  war  and  I  had  to  make  my 
decision.  I  did  not  want  to  return  to  England,  nor  could  I 
bring  myself  to  enlist  in  the  regular  army;  I  was  afraid 
of  making  myself  ridiculous  among  professional  soldiers. 
When  the  draft  law  was  passed  I  took  out  my  first  papers 
so  as  to  come  under  its  operation,  and  to  my  immense 
relief  my  number  was  in  the  first  batch — eight  hundred 
and  something.  I  received  my  training  at  Camp  Upton, 
Long  Island,  and  there  Uncle  Berel,  dispirited  but  affec- 
tionate, would  visit  me,  bearing  always  a  gift  of  salami 
and  black  bread.  I  could  not  convince  him  that  we  were 



not  only  well  fed  but  perhaps  overfed;  and  he  never  be- 
came reconciled  to  my  decision. 

One  Sunday  morning  I  took  him  round  the  system  of 
trenches  we  had  dug — a  replica  of  a  section  of  the  Western 
front — and  were  learning  to  storm  and  defend.  Uncle 
Berel  looked  long  and  earnestly,  then  turned  to  me.  "These 
holes  in  the  ground — you're  supposed  to  let  yourself  be 
killed  rather  than  give  them  up?"  "Yes,  Uncle  Berel,  that 
might  be  the  order."  "Vey,  vey/'  he  mourned,  "can  human 
lunacy  go  further?  Fool!  If  the  other  man  wants  them 
so  badly  that  he's  prepared  to  kill  for  them,  let  him 
have  them!  Go  away  and  dig  yourself  another  lot  of 

He  took  a  horrified,  almost  morbid  interest  in  the  de- 
tails of  my  military  activity.  He  conceded  that  the  Ameri- 
can army  was  nothing  like  the  Rumanian,  but  the  whole 
thing  was  mad  anyhow.  One  circumstance  made  a  pecu- 
liarly painful  impression  on  him.  My  regiment,  the  307th 
Infantry,  had  a  large  contingent  of  New  York  East-Siders, 
some  of  them  recent  arrivals  in  the  country  with  very 
little  knowledge  of  English.  I  was  in  Company  F,  and  my 
captain,  a  likable  lawyer  named  Davis,  asked  me  whether  I 
would  not  take  over  two  squads  of  the  newcomers  and 
teach  them  the  rudiments  of  close-order  drill  in  Yiddish. 
It  was  a  request  rather  than  a  command,  and  in  an  evil 
hour  I  accepted.  My  Yiddish  had  improved  considerably  in 
the  last  three  years;  I  was  reading  the  classics  with  enjoy- 
ment and  already  entertaining  thoughts  of  translating 
Sholom  Aleichem,  Yal  Peretz,  and  Mendelle  into  English. 
(I  had  made  the  personal  acquaintance  of  Sholom 
Aleichem  shortly  before  his  death  in  1916.)  Uncle  Berel 
had  been  indescribably  delighted  by  my  increasing  pro- 
ficiency in  the  language,  but  he  was  profoundly  shocked 
by  the  use  to  which  I  was  now  putting  it.  He  was  also 



puzzled:  where  did  I  get  the  military  terminology?  He 
had  never  heard  of  such  a  thing  in  Yiddish,  Jews  had 
never  fought  in  that  language. 

I  told  him  that  I  gave  the  commands  in  English  and 
explained  their  execution  in  Yiddish,  with  illustration. 
"Ven  ich  zog  'Te-en-shun!'  you  must  stand  up  straight,  ot 
azoi,  like  this,  feet  together  at  an  angle,  ot  azoi,  shoulders 
drawn  back,"  and  so  forth.  I  confessed  to  Uncle  Berel 
that  I  found  the  assignment  not  at  all  to  my  taste.  The 
men  didn't  take  me  seriously,  because  of  my  Yiddish.  They 
were  willing  enough  to  be  soldiers,  but  they  looked  on 
me  as  an  impostor.  They  argued  with  me,  and  one  man, 
Strauss,  a  thickset  Russian  Jew,  was  particularly  objec- 
tionable. "Look,  Samuel,  I've  been  standing  and  walking 
on  my  feet  for  over  twenty  years,  and  I  haven't  fallen 
down  since  I  was  a  baby.  I  can  stand  like  this,  and  I  stand 
like  this" — he  took  up  various  postures — "and  I'm  still 
standing.  Give  me  a  gun  and  I'll  shoot  all  the  Germans 
you  want,  but  for  God's  sake  fardreh  mir  nisht  a  kop — 
don't  drive  me  out  of  my  wits  with  that  rubbishy  left 
right,  left  right!  Just  tell  me  where  to  go  and  you'll  see,  I'll 
get  there." 

"Strauss,"  I  said,  "I'm  teaching  you  what  I  have  to  teach 
you.  Go  tell  the  captain." 

"And  another  thing,"  answered  Strauss.  "You  want  to 
say  'Attention'?  Say  it.  Don't  shout  'Te-en-shun!'  and  get 
red  in  the  face.  You  want  to  say  Torward  march'?  Don't 
yell  'Fa.w-wa.w-harch!'  Say  it  plainly,  reasonably,  like  a 
human  being." 

"Isn't  he  right?"  asked  Uncle  Berel,  and  went  back  to 
his  lament.  "Vey,  vey,  you  take  a  beautiful  language  like 
Yiddish,  a  dear  homey  language,  and  with  it  you  not  only 
want  to  teach  men  to  kill,  you  also  want  to  turn  them  into 
idiots.  For  the  sake  of  a  hole  in  the  ground.  Feh!" 



I  look  back  nearly  half  a  century  and  wonder  how  far 
Uncle  Berel  would  have  carried  his  principles.  Would  he 
have  agreed  with  Epictetus,  who  says:  "If  a  man  steals 
your  lamp  it  is  your  fault  for  having  a  lamp"?  I  also 
wonder  how  in  his  brief  Zionist  interlude  Uncle  Berel  the 
pacifist  foresaw  the  emergence  of  the  Jewish  homeland.  I 
dare  say  it  was  somewhat  as  follows:  a  large  number  of 
Jews  would  realize,  under  the  magic  of  Herzl's  persua- 
sion, that  the  time  had  come  for  them  to  rebuild  their 
country;  some  would  go  there,  others  would  help  them; 
the  nations  of  the  world,  under  the  same  spell,  would  ap- 
plaud; the  Arabs  would  receive  the  Jews  with  open  arms: 
a  Messianic  picture. 

Was  my  own  view,  in  my  socialist-Zionist-pacifist  days, 
any  less  naive?  With  all  that  we  have  witnessed  since,  the 
answer  seems  to  be  emphatically  no.  Yet  there  was  a  time 
before,  during  and  after  the  First  World  War — the  "war 
to  end  wars,"  the  early  days  of  the  League  of  Nations — 
during  which  men  far  more  sophisticated  than  Uncle  Berel 
or  I  foresaw  reasonably  happy  solutions  of  many  general 
and  particular  problems.  There  were  leading  Jews,  and 
leading  Arabs,  who  believed,  or  at  least  officially  declared 
that  they  believed,  in  fruitful  Jewish-Arab  co-operation.  I 
digress  at  this  point  in  order  to  defend  myself — in  my 
own  eyes,  too — against  the  charge  of  utter  shlimihlishness, 
and  I  quote  an  extraordinary  letter  remembered  by  few. 
It  was  written  by  the  Emir  (later  king  of  Iraq)  Faisal,  the 
head  of  the  Arab  delegation  to  the  Paris  Peace  Conference 
of  1919,  and  addressed  to  Professor  (later  Justice)  Felix 
Frankfurter,  who  was  then  active  in  the  Zionist  movement 
and  co-operating  with  Chaim  Weizmann,  the  head  of  the 
Zionist  delegation: 

Dear  Mr.  Frankfurter: 

I  wish  to  take  this  opportunity  of  my  first  contact 



with  American  Zionists,  to  tell  you  what  I  have  often 
been  able  to  say  to  Dr.  Weizmann  in  Arabia  and 

We  feel  that  the  Arabs  and  Jews  are  cousins  in 
race,  suffering  similar  oppressions  at  the  hands  of 
powers  stronger  than  themselves,  and  by  a  happy 
coincidence  have  been  able  to  take  the  first  step  to- 
ward the  attainment  of  their  national  ideals  together. 

We  Arabs,  especially  the  educated  among  us,  look 
with  the  deepest  sympathy  on  the  Zionist  movement. 
Our  deputation  here  in  Paris  is  fully  acquainted 
with  the  proposals  submitted  by  the  Zionist  Organiza- 
tion to  the  Peace  Conference,  and  we  regard  them 
as  moderate  and  proper.  We  will  do  our  best,  in  so 
far  as  we  are  concerned,  to  help  them  through;  we 
will  wish  the  Jews  a  most  hearty  welcome  home.  .  .  . 

We  are  working  together  for  a  reformed  and  revived 
Near  East,  and  our  two  movements  complete  one 
another.  .  .  . 

People  less  informed  and  less  responsible  than  our 
leaders,  ignoring  the  need  for  cooperation  of  the 
Arabs  and  Zionists,  have  been  trying  to  exploit  the 
local  differences  that  must  necessarily  arise  in  Pales- 
tine in  the  early  stages  of  our  movements.  ...  I  wish 
to  give  you  my  firm  conviction  that  these  differences 
are  not  on  questions  of  principle,  but  on  matters  of 
detail,  such  as  must  invariably  occur  in  every  contact 
with  neighboring  peoples,  and  as  are  easily  dissipated 
by  mutual  good  will.  Indeed,  nearly  all  of  them  will 
disappear  with  fuller  knowledge. 

Philosophers  will  tell  you  that  what  has  not  happened 
could  not  have  happened — a  wonderful  expression  of  the 
self-assurance  of  hindsight.  But  many  things  looked  pos- 
sible in  1919  to  men  of  good  will,  and  if  their  hopes  were 



disappointed  it  does  not  prove  that  the  pessimists  were 

In  the  course  o£  the  decades  the  things  I  learned  about 
Rumania  from  and  through  Uncle  Berel,  and  those  I 
heard  of  at  home  in  Manchester,  and  those  I  recall  myself, 
have  become  submerged  in  the  uniformity  of  that  strange, 
clear,  submarine  light  that  now  rests  on  all  my  childhood 
memories.  Transpositions  may  have  taken  place;  things 
told  may,  by  repetition,  have  acquired  the  intensity  of 
things  lived;  things  lived  may  have  fused  with  things  told; 
all  are  equally  "factual." 

The  Jews  of  Rumania  used  to  have  a  reputation  as 
Lebejungen,  high-livers,  short  on  learning,  much  given  to 
the  world  and  the  flesh,  if  not  the  devil.  They,  and  to 
some  extent  Ukrainian  Jews,  also  from  a  fat  land,  were 
contrasted  with  the  lean  and  hungry  intellectual  Litvak 
(Lithuanian  Jews).  It  may  be  an  individual  accident — my 
birth  into  a  low  economic  stratum,  the  family  destiny,  my 
mother's  temperament — but  my  personal  memories  do 
not  bear  this  reputation  out.  Rumania  is  touched  with 
sadness  for  me.  In  Uncle  Berel's  restaurant  I  once  heard 
from  the  entertainer  a  song  that  had  been  a  favorite  with 
my  mother,  about  the  miseries  of  the  Jewish  conscript.  I 
recall  it  very  clearly: 

How  many  bitter  tears  my  parents  shed 
Before  they  saw  me  grown  to  man's  estate; 
Now  far  from  home  I  must  lay  down  my  head, 
The  road  is  closed  and  bolted  is  the  gate. 

So  sing  this  song  with  me,  my  brothers  dear. 
Your  youth  is  gone,  the  happy  time  is  done. 



Now  you  have  reached  your  first  and  twentieth  year, 
The  next  three  years  you  are  King  Carol's  son. 

Doleful  enough  words,  and  a  doleful  melody  went  with 
them;  but  even  when  she  sang  a  song  of  cheer  (I  mean,  as 
far  as  the  words  went)  there  was  a  disconsolate  catch  in 
my  mother's  voice  that  would  have  infused  a  cosmic  dejec- 
tion into  A-hunting  We  Will  Go!  Uncle  Berel  told  me 
that  as  a  girl  my  mother  had  been  a  jolly  and  lively  crea- 
ture, which  was  as  difficult  for  me  to  reconcile  with  my 
image  of  her  as  it  had  been  to  identify  the  dashing  cavalry- 
man in  the  resplendant  uniform  with  the  careworn,  over- 
worked, embittered  mender  of  old  shoes  who  was  my 
father.  It  appalled  me  also  to  learn  that  once  upon  a  time 
my  mother  had  been  able  to  read  and  write,  and  had  cor- 
responded with  my  father  in  their  courtship  days.  I  knew 
her  always  as  an  analphabet,  though  wonderfully  intel- 
ligent. Years  of  sickness  and  the  struggle  for  a  livelihood, 
especially  after  we  migrated  from  Rumania,  first  to  France 
and  then  to  England,  had  beaten  her  down  and  atrophied, 
by  disuse,  such  literacy  as  she  had  once  possessed. 

My  mother  had  a  sweet  voice  and  knew  many  songs.  In 
her  girlhood  in  Yasse,  and  then  during  a  stay  in  Bucharest, 
she  had  been  a  frequenter  of  the  plays  and  operas  of 
Abraham  Goldfaden,  the  founder  of  the  modern  Yiddish 
theater.  Besides  those  arias  of  his  which  have  become  Yid- 
dish folklore  (he  was  a  kind  of  higher-level  Stephen  Foster 
to  East  European  Jewry),  like  Rozhenkes  un  Mandlen 
(Raisins  and  Almonds),  A  Pastuch  Is  Amol  Geven  (A  Shep- 
herd Once  There  Was),  and  the  like,  she  had  memorized 
passages  which  have  not  caught  on  in  the  same  way,  and 
which  I  have  not  heard  again  except  at  long  intervals, 
when  there  has  been  a  Goldfaden  revival.  (Just  a  few  years 
ago,  on  the  West  Coast,  a  Hadassah  group  which  I  ad- 



dressed  put  on  an  excellent  performance  of  Goldfaden's 
Shulamis,  and  ladies  on  either  side  of  me,  seeing  me  wipe 
my  eyes  furtively,  said:  "This  must  mean  a  great  deal 
more  to  you  than  it  can  to  us."  It  did.)  Whatever  my 
mother  sang  was  flooded  with  melancholy.  The  cheerful 
Pilgrim's  Chorus  from  Shulamis  became  a  funeral  march, 
so  that,  when  I  heard  it  rendered  with  the  swing  and  high 
spirit  Goldfaden  had  undoubtedly  intended  for  it,  I  was 
shocked  as  by  an  act  of  irreverence.  As  to  what  my  mother 
did  with  the  intentionally  doleful  passages,  I  can  only  say 
that  by  comparison  the  heartbreaking  recitative  of  Jere- 
miah's Book  of  Lamentations  on  the  eve  of  the  Black  Fast 
sounded  like  an  epithalamium. 

Uncle  Berel  told  me  that  my  mother  began  to  change 
when  she  had  to  settle  in  the  village  of  Macheen,  where 
my  father  had  set  up  a  shoe-repair  shop.  She  was  a  city  girl, 
accustomed  to  the  movement  and  gaiety  of  sizable  places 
like  Yasse  and  Bucharest  and  Braila.  I  remember  with  a 
vividness  which  places  the  experience  beyond  suspicion 
of  dream  or  the  recounted  incident  how  my  mother  used 
to  sit  on  the  stoop  of  our  house  in  Macheen  and  bewail 
her  fate.  Dead  from  the  front  of  the  house  the  dirt  road 
ran  off  toward  the  Primeria  (town  hall),  with  Todoracu 
the  barber  on  the  right  and  Sooreh  die  blecherkie  (Sarah 
the  tinsmithess,  i.e.,  the  tinsmith's  wife)  on  the  left,  and 
farther  along,  also  on  the  left,  the  synagogue  and  the 
mikveh  (ritual  bathhouse).  Our  street,  which  was  the  dead 
end  of  the  Primeria  street,  stretched  one  way  to  the  Turk- 
ish quarter  and  the  crossroads  lantern  which  was  the  pride 
of  Macheen,  the  other  way  to  the  glittering  Teena 
(Danube),  which  made  a  bend  and  came  round  to  the 
back  of  our  house.  Across  more  than  six  decades  I  hear 
my  mother  keening  as  she  stares  away,  holding  my  head  in 
her  lap:  "Gevald,  vus  bin  ich  farkrochen  in  der  veest — God 



help  me,  how  did  I  land  in  this  wilderness?  Fields  and 
fields  and  fields,  peasants  and  peasants  and  peasants.  And 
the  nights!  Death  itself!"  It  is  from  that  childhood  experi- 
ence, I  sometimes  think,  that  I  have  brought  over  my 
aversion  to  the  deep  countryside.  I  cannot  bear  its  special 
silence.  I  am  overcome  by  a  shudder  of  fear  when  I  have 
to  walk  alone  at  night  along  a  deserted  country  road.  It  is 
not  the  fear  of  assault,  or  of  some  mishap,  and  certainly 
not  of  ghosts;  it  is  an  unnamable  horror  which  sends  me 
at  top  speed  toward  the  light  of  a  house  and  human  com- 

The  memory  of  those  locations — town  hall,  crossroads, 
synagogue,  Turkish  quarter,  lantern — I  checked  with 
Uncle  Berel  long  ago,  and  more  recently  with  my  older 
brother,  Mendel,  who  was  in  Macheen  until  the  age  of 
eleven.  But  the  sound  of  my  mother's  voice  and  the  words 
she  uttered  I  shall  never  be  able  to  check  with  anyone. 
The  impression  she  left  on  me  is  in  one  sense  a  private 
affair,  but  in  another  sense  the  very  opposite;  for  it  is  of 
the  Golus,  the  Jewish  Exile.  Those  words:  "Vus  bin  ich 
farkrochen  in  der  veest!"  That  voice,  that  sense  of  the  lost 
and  the  exiled! 

There  comes  over,  from  my  mother,  from  my  childhood, 
I  should  even  say  from  my  infancy,  and  also  from  my  youth 
and  from  Uncle  Berel,  a  feeling  of  the  dominant  spirit 
of  Golus  desolation,  and  behind  it,  faintly,  I  hear  the 
wailing  of  the  muezzin  on  the  minaret  which  was  visible 
from  our  yard.  Uncle  Berel's  "Beh!  They  won't  let  us" 
seems  in  my  recollection  to  echo  a  general  hopelessness  and 
listlessness  with  regard  to  the  Jewish  condition  among  the 
Jews  of  my  early  years.  "They  won't  let  us"  and  "Who  are 
we  to  undertake  such  an  extraordinary  enterprise?"  As  my 
mother  had  lost  the  ability  to  read  and  write,  so  the  Jews  I 
grew  up  among  seemed  to  have  lost,  also  through  trans- 



mitted  disuse,  their  faith  in  themselves  as  the  creators  and 
managers  of  a  Jewish  homeland.  For  a  moment  Herzl  had 
broken  through  the  paralysis;  then,  with  his  death,  ancient 
habit  had  reasserted  itself  and — as  I  was  to  learn  in  the 
Zionist  movement — it  would  take  decades  of  agitation 
and  frightful  cataclysms  to  rouse  the  will  and  establish  the 
self-confidence  of  the  Jewish  people.  I  call  to  mind  the 
legend  of  Tarquin  the  Proud  and  the  nine  Sibylline  Books. 
The  Erythrean  Sibyl  offered  them  to  the  Roman  at  a  crea- 
tain  price;  he  refused;  thereupon  she  burned  three  of  them 
and  offered  the  remainder  at  the  same  price.  He  refused 
again,  and  again  she  burned  three  books  and  offered  the 
remainder  at  the  same  price.  In  the  end  Tarquin  bought 
the  three  for  the  money  which  would  have  got  him  nine. 
So  with  the  Jews;  they  dallied  until  they  had  to  build  their 
homeland  after  the  two  most  vital  Jewries — those  of 
Poland  and  Russia — had  been  either  destroyed  or  cut  off 
from  the  rest  of  the  world. 

We  Zionists  talk  in  our  propaganda  of  the  electric  shock 
which  passed  through  world  Jewry  when  England  issued 
the  Balfour  Declaration  in  1917,  supporting  the  plan  for  a 
Jewish  homeland  in  Palestine.  Yes,  the  reaction  was  vivid. 
I  also  remember  out  of  my  childhood  how  Herzl's  brief 
and  blazing  career  produced  a  similar  effect  in  our  humble, 
uninstructed  corner  of  the  Jewish  world,  and  how  his 
sudden  extinction  plunged  us  into  mourning  (the  cliche 
is  in  this  case  a  literal  description).  However,  I  also  re- 
member that  the  wonder  and  worship  that  blossomed 
round  Herzl  had  had  no  practical  results  in  my  environ- 
ment— they  seemed  to  be  waiting  for  him  to  do  every- 
thing himself,  like  a  Messiah — nor  were  the  results  im- 
pressive anywhere  outside  the  little  band  of  passionate 
devotees.  The  masses  did  not  move  at  Herzl's  call,  and 
they  did  not  move  even  after  the  Balfour  Declaration.  And 



yet,  speaking  for  the  world  I  grew  up  in,  and  the  world 
round  Uncle  Berel,  it  was  not  a  fundamental  indifference. 
It  was  in  part  distrust  of  the  world  at  large  ("They  won't 
let  us"),  in  part  distrust  of  self  ("Who  are  we,  etc?")  and 
in  part  that  Messianic  attitude  in  a  secular  form.  For  Herzl 
had  been  a  genuinely  Messianic  apparition,  secular  in 
externals,  folkloristically  sacred  in  essence,  and  thwarted 
by  death. 

Uncle  Berel  was  "electrified"  and  confused  by  the  Bal- 
four Declaration.  I  was  at  the  time  of  its  issuance  already  a 
soldier.  I  had  by  then  worked  for,  among  others,  the 
Zionist  Organization  of  America,  the  Jewish  Education 
Bureau  of  New  York,  a  raincoat  manufacturer  in  Cleve- 
land (that  lasted  two  days:  I  left  unobtrusively  after  having 
sewn  some  dozens  of  sleeve  tabs  into  the  armpit  ends  of 
the  sleeves),  and  in  the  pit  of  the  Goodyear  Rubber  plant 
in  Akron  (that  lasted  some  months).  I  had  done  some 
hoboing  in  the  Middle  West,  and  had  written  two  novels 
the  manuscripts  of  which  I  was  fortunate  enough  to  lose, 
thereby  saving  myself  a  small  fortune  in  stamps  alone,  and 
I  had  published  several  short  stories  in  Mencken  and 
Nathan's  Smart  Set.  On  one  of  my  leaves  I  went  with  Uncle 
Berel  to  his  restaurant.  He  wavered  that  evening  between 
gratitude  for  the  Balfour  Declaration,  suspicion  of  duplic- 
ity, distrust  of  destiny,  and  above  all  doubts  as  to  the 
capacities  of  the  Jewish  people. 

"A  ness,  a  miracle,"  he  said.  "Excellent,  anshtendig, 
decent,"  and  so  on,  diminuendo.  "Let's  suppose  that  Eng- 
land means  it  and  the  other  allies  agree.  Is  it  bashert, 
destined,  and  can  our  Yiddalach  do  it?  Es  leigt  sich  nit  offn 
sechel — it  somehow  doesn't  make  sense." 

Somewhere  along  the  line,  in  centuries  of  exile,  humilia- 
tion, and  everlasting  displacement,  the  Jews  seem  to  have 
formed  an  attachment  to  their  misery.  The  sense  of  earthly 



futility,  too,  was  to  them  part  of  Jewishness.  There  was 
not  only  acquiescence  in  their  status,  there  was  also  a 
lachrymose  enjoyment  of  it.  On  the  evening  to  which  I 
refer,  the  entertainer  sang  a  Rumanian  refrain  I  had  heard 
from  my  mother.  All  I  remember  of  the  words  is: 

O  saracu  Plevna  nostra, 

Ah,  aman  aman,  ah,  aman  aman  . .  . 

The  first  line  means:  "Alas,  alas  for  our  Plevna,"  and  I 
take  it  to  refer  to  the  famous  battle  or  battles  of  Plevna  in 
the  Turko-Russian  war  of  1877,  in  which  Rumania  had 
had  a  part  ("Old,  unhappy,  far-off  things  and  battles  long 
ago"),  and  what  the  second  line  means  I  do  not  know.  But 
I  remember  that  in  the  song  occurred  the  names  of  Osman 
Pasha  and  Skoboliev,  and  when  she  uttered  them  my 
mother  made  a  gesture  of  horror.  The  song  is  also  associ- 
ated in  my  mind  with  one  of  the  earliest,  perhaps  the 
earliest  visual  recollection  out  of  my  childhood — a  squad 
of  soldiers  in  dusty,  gray-white  uniforms  marching  past  our 
house  toward  the  Turkish  quarter.  In  my  mother's  singing 
there  was  a  great  compassion  for  the  soldiers,  and  a  touch 
of  despair  at  the  bloody  antics  of  the  goyim  in  which  Jews 
were  compelled  to  join  mir  nisht  dir  nisht,  as  Uncle  Berel 
used  to  say.  And  both  Uncle  Berel  and  my  mother  had  a 
deep-rooted  if  unformulated  conviction  that  the  world, 
with  its  privileges  and  triumphs,  was  not  for  the  Jews  until 
something  like  a  Messianic  transformation  had  taken 


i<>!i      n^     i5?>5l 

^  27  ^ 


Time  Present,  Place  Here 



AM  WRITING  this  book  in  the  land  Uncle  Berel  said 
"they"  would  never  let  us  have.  I  keep  thinking:  "How 
wonderful  if  I  could  get  him  a  visitor's  visa  from  wherever 
he  is — assuming  he  could  get  a  passport — and  show  him 
round:  'Look!  It  has  happened  after  all!'  "  I  have  had  this 
thought  about  others,  about  relatives  and  friends,  my 
parents,  my  rebbe  (Hebrew  teacher),  those  who  have  long 
been  keeping  Uncle  Berel  company,  but  about  him  in 
particular,  because  he  was  so  obstinately  persuaded  that 
it  could  not  happen,  and  because  he  would  be  so  pleased 
to  be  proved  wrong. 

But  it  is  also  because  I  am  living  in  the  Weizmann  Insti- 
tute of  Science,  where  they  are  answering  questions  he 
used  to  ask,  and  many  others  he  could  not  have  thought 
of.  I  am  playing  Uncle  Berel,  as  it  were,  to  the  scientists 
here.  "Tell  me  something  about  the  mechanism  of  hered- 
ity. What  is  the  situation  today  in  atomic  science?  By  what 
means  do  they  plot  the  structure  of  a  molecule?  How  do 
you  prepare  a  program  for  the  electronic  computer?"  I 
have  been  trying,  over  the  last  few  years,  to  make  good — 
to  whatever  extent  it  is  possible,  so  late,  with  so  little 
equipment — a  painful  defect  in  my  education.   It  is  a 


wonderful  adventure,  the  most  exciting  I  have  ever  under- 
taken; and  it  brings  me  very  close  to  Uncle  Berel. 

One  thing  in  particular  I  would  like  to  tell  Uncle  Berel. 
"Do  you  remember  asking  me:  'Who's  going  to  lead  us 
now?  Where  will  we  find  another  Herzl?'  And  do  you 
remember  that  I  never  mentioned  the  name  of  Chaim 
Weizmann?  Well,  he  was  the  man,  as  great  in  his  own 
way  as  Herzl.  From  boyhood  into  old  age  he  labored  for 
this  land.  His  share  in  it  is  incomparably  the  greatest  of 
his  generation.  And  if  it  were  not  for  him  I  would  cer- 
tainly not  be  here.  I  don't  mean  in  Israel,  but  at  the 
Weizmann  Institute."  And  I  can  imagine  Uncle  Berel 
murmuring:  "It  is  a  marvelous  world  .  .  .  the  mind  of 
man  can't  look  through  the  deepness  of  it  all." 

When  I  first  saw  Rehovoth  nearly  forty  years  ago  there 
was  of  course  no  Weizmann  Institute;  there  was  hardly  a 
Rehovoth.  The  area  was  part  habitation,  part  orchard  and 
orange  grove,  but,  like  the  rest  of  the  country,  mostly 
wilderness.  Its  largest  population  was  of  jackals — their 
diminishing  tenth  and  eleventh  generations  can  still  be 
heard  lamenting  in  the  nights — and  the  road  from  the  tiny 
village  to  the  nearest  town,  Tel  Aviv,  was  sand,  into  which 
the  wheels  of  the  diligence  sank  several  inches.  It  took  four 
or  five  hours  each  way;  now  the  taxi  makes  it  in  twenty 
minutes  (thirty  with  a  sensible  driver)  on  the  metalled 
road.  Rehovoth,  with  its  twenty  thousand  inhabitants,  is 
bigger  than  Tel  Aviv  was  then,  and  a  twenty-fifth  part  of 
what  Tel  Aviv  is  now.  Furious  traffic  pours  back  and  forth, 
local  buses  and  trucks,  buses  and  trucks  to  and  from  the 
northern  cities  and  Beersheba,  private  cars,  motorcycles, 
tourist  buses.  Behind  its  gates  the  Institute  is,  to  all  seem- 
ing, a  world  apart. 

It  is  a  lovely  place,  eighty  acres  of  multicolored  garden 
and  lawn  and  grove,  with  green  predominant,  but  rich  in 



scarlet  and  mauve  and  purple,  Monterey  and  Kashmir 
cypresses,  pine,  flame  tree,  bougainvillea,  and  poinciana 
regia.  I  am  under  a  constant  tugging  toward  the  outdoors, 
even  in  the  heat  of  the  day,  but  I  parcel  out  the  hours  with 
a  stern  hand.  In  the  morning  I  write,  in  the  afternoon  re- 
ceive my  teachers;  toward  twilight  I  leave  the  Faculty 
Club  House  and  stroll  from  building  to  building:  Nuclear 
Physics,  Experimental  Biology,  Electronic  Computer, 
Heavy  Water  Tower,  Plant  Genetics,  library.  My  favorite 
walk  is  along  the  shining  tree-lined  road  which  ends  in  a 
spacious  marble-paved  plaza;  from  here  a  narrow,  sandy 
track  leads  between  lantana,  oleander,  honeysuckle, 
geranium,  and  rose  bushes  to  the  grave  of  Chaim  Weiz- 
mann.  A  plain,  horizontal  marble  slab  bears  his  name  in 
Hebrew,  nothing  more,  no  mention  of  honors  or  other 
worldly  circumstance,  not  even  dates  of  birth  and  death. 
To  the  right,  on  the  little  hill,  is  the  stately  house  in  which 
I  so  often  sat  with  him  in  his  latter  years,  and  from  which 
we  could  look  down  on  the  spot  he  had  chosen  for  his 
burial  place. 


It  is  the  complete  division,  for  me,  between  two  non- 
communicating  worlds  that  has  triggered  off  so  powerfully 
the  impulse  to  write  about  my  inner  life.  I  am  a  collection 
of  memories  and  emotions,  loves  and  hates,  sweet  silent 
thoughts,  delights  pertaining  to  persons  and  books,  deep 
attachments — to  my  people,  to  America,  to  Israel,  to  Eng- 
land— recurrent  longings  to  be  "better"  than  I  am, 
glimpses  of  a  Power  for  which  I  accept  the  name  of  God; 
and  all  this  has  no  bearing  on,  no  connection  with  what 
I  am  trying  to  build  up  as  the  concept  (I  will  not  say  "pic- 
ture") of  scientific  "reality."  I  find  the  two  worlds  incom- 



mensurable.  Is  it  because  I  am  a  tyro  in  science?  Is  it  be- 
cause science  is  still  in  its  infancy?  Men  whose  intelligence 
I  respect,  whose  scientific  competence  is  attested  in  high 
places,  tell  me  that  in  time  a  connection  will  be  established 
between  thoughts  and  emotions  on  the  one  hand  and  the 
measurable  behavior  o£  atoms  and  electrical  charges  on  the 
other;  at  least  a  connection  of  rigid  correspondence.  For 
the  moment  all  I  understand,  and  that  only  in  part  of 
course,  is  the  reasoning  behind  the  Crick- Watson  model  of 
DNA,  the  tables  of  the  atomic  shells,  the  logic  of  the  Stern- 
Gerlach  experiment,  the  procedures  of  X-ray  crystallog- 
raphy, some  of  the  reports  on  electroencephalography. 
There  is  aesthetic  as  well  as  intellectual  fascination 
here,  but  this  emotion  is  irrelevant  except  as  the  driving 
force  toward  study.  Or,  if  it  is  relevant,  we  must  think  in  a 
new  way  about  the  manner  of  its  operation. 

I  pondered  this  problem  as  I  stood  late  one  night  before 
WEIZAC,  our  Weizmann  Institute  electronic  computer, 
which  is  kept  working  twenty-four  hours  a  day  throughout 
the  year.  He  (I  use  this  pronoun  because  there  is  no  neuter 
gender  in  Hebrew,  and  I  prefer  "he"  to  "she"  because  I 
cannot  associate  complete  absence  of  emotion  with  the 
feminine)  is  pretty  old,  having  been  put  together  seven 
or  eight  years  ago.  He  was  quite  a  man,  or  rather,  quite  the 
thing,  in  his  prime,  that  is,  on  the  day  he  was  completed — 
computers  differ  from  living  things  like  men  and  other 
animals  in  being  at  their  best  when  born  and  falling  into 
obsolescence  more  rapidly.  Not  that  old  WEIZAC  has 
deteriorated;  kept  in  good  order  he  performs  as  well  as 
ever.  He  is  simply  outclassed  by  the  new  computers,  one  of 
which  is  being  constructed  next  door  to  him  with  his  self- 
less assistance.*  The  new  computers  will  also  be  outclassed 

*  As  I  correct  proofs  in  America,  I  learn  that  old  WEIZAC  is  done  for. 
He  computed  himself  out  of  existence  on  the  question  of  whether  he  was 
worth  keeping.  I  shall  miss  him. 



in  a  few  years.  We  may  soon  have  a  computer  (or  have  we 
one  already?)  that  can  not  only  keep  itself  in  order  but 
improve  itself  to  keep  pace  with  the  progress  of  man's 
needs.  WEIZAC  is  unable  to  process  the  material  I  have 
just  referred  to,  my  loves  and  hates  and  moral  qualms, 
even  if  the  mathematicians  were  able  to  program  them. 
But  tomorrow,  or  the  day  after  .  .  . 

I  stand  before  WEIZAC  and  his  lights  blink  at  me.  Con- 
trol instructs  Input:  "Feed  information  to  Memory";  in- 
structs Output:  "Print  information  from  Memory"; 
instructs  Memory:  "Transfer  information  to  Processor" 
and:  "Send  information  to  Control";  instructs  Processor: 
"Process  information  received  from  Memory  and  transfer 
back  to  Memory."  In  a  matter  of  a  few  seconds  a  million 
million  "Yes-No,  Yes-No"  operations  produce  the  answer 
to  the  programmed  question.  It  would  have  taken  math- 
ematicians weeks  or  months  to  work  it  out.  And  yet 
WEIZAC  is  a  primitive;  there  is  even,  in  that  blinking 
of  his,  a  suggestion  of  the  animistic,  and  more  than  a  sug- 
gestion in  the  terminology  of  his  parts. 

What  will  his  sucessors  be  like? 

I  go  out  from  his  presence  into  the  star-studded  night 
and  stroll  in  the  silent  garden.  I  feel  that  I  represent  mil- 
lions and  millions  of  my  kind:  I  shall  have  to  get  used  to 
certain  things;  but  when  I  have  done  that,  what  will  I  be 


®  32  ® 


The  Twig  Is  Bent 


TATisTicALLY  I  am  dead  several  time  over.  If  Uncle 
Berel  had  been  an  actuary,  he  would  have  known  that 
anyone  born  in  1895  in  such  advanced  countries  as  Eng- 
land and  America  had  an  even  chance  of  being  alive  at 
fifty;  it  was  less  than  an  even  chance  for  one  who  was  born 
and  continued  to  live  in  Rumania.  My  mother  bore  nine 
children,  three  of  whom  died  in  infancy;  two  little 
brothers,  Aaron  and  Naphthali,  I  never  knew;  I  remember 
as  in  a  vivid  dream  a  sister  called  Bessie,  and  I  remember 
the  pall  that  fell  on  the  house  with  her  death.  As  regards 
the  family,  then,  I  had  two  chances  in  three  of  surviving 
my  infancy,  but  that  is  only  the  beginning  of  the  list  of 

I  was  born  together  with  a  twin  sister,  Hannah,  who 
died  in  1955.  When  we  came  into  the  world,  my  mother 
had  three  infants  and  two  youngsters  to  look  after,  and 
the  double  addition  was  too  much  for  her.  I  was  put  out 
to  a  Turkish  wet  nurse  who  nearly  settled  the  problem 
when  I  was  a  few  months  old.  In  letters  my  father  wrote 
me  shortly  before  his  death  in  1924,  he  told  me  how  I 
peaked  and  pined  and  was  discovered,  on  an  unexpected 
visit,  in  such  filth  and  misery  that  I  was  snatched  back 


home.  In  respect  to  that  episode  alone,  I  overcame  a  ten- 
to-one  hazard. 

Now  suppose  my  mother  had  not  nagged  my  father  to 
leave  Rumania  and  I  had  stayed  on  there  for  the  rest  of 
my  undetermined  life;  what  would  have  been  my  chances 
of  surviving  the  Hitler  time,  to  say  nothing  of  intervening 
dangers?  Or  suppose  we  had  settled  permanently  in  Paris, 
where  we  stayed  for  nearly  a  year  before  proceeding  to 
Manchester,  and  suppose  I  had  been  a  French  conscript 
in  the  First  World  War;  or  suppose  I  had  served  in  the 
British  army  instead  of  the  American;  or,  serving  in  the 
American  army,  suppose  I  had  been  sent  to  the  front  in- 
stead of  getting  no  nearer  to  it  than  the  advanced  zone, 
whence  I  was  recalled  to  serve  in  GIL  There  were  also 
many  private  narrow  escapes  in  my  life,  though  these  are 
perhaps  part  of  the  general  statistical  table;  once  I  nearly 
stepped  into  an  elevator  shaft  on  the  twentieth  floor  when 
the  elevator  was  not  there,  and  once  a  farmer  in  Ohio  shot 
at  me  when  I  was  stealing  peaches  from  his  orchard.  It  was 
night,  and  he  missed,  but  I  heard  the  bullet  like  a  mos- 
quito near  my  ear,  and  I  ran  like  mad.  However  I  look  at 
it,  I  am  astonished  at  being  here. 

On  the  other  hand,  if  I  have  defied  statistics  till  now, 
statistics  will  turn  their  tables  on  me  in  the  end.  I  shall 
assuredly  die  before  my  time.  We  all  do,  with  an  uncol- 
lected statistical  life  expectancy. 

A  more  subtle  statistical  puzzle  lies  in  the  fact  that  I 
grew  up  into  me  and  not  somebody  else.  The  probabilities 
pointed  at  a  kind  of  me  that  depresses  the  me  I  became. 
For,  granting  me  a  normal  span  of  life,  what  would  have 
been  my  opportunities  had  my  family  stayed  on,  as  the 
majority  of  Jews  did,  in  Rumania?  'Taney,"  I  often  say 
to  myself,  "not  having  the  treasures  of  the  English  Ian- 
gauge  and  literature  to  ransack!  Fancy  not  to  have  known 



at  first  hand  the  greatness  of  England  and  America.  All 
that  I  have  read,  all  that  I  have  seen, 

cities  of  men 
And  manners,  climates,  councils,  governments, 

(a  little  exaggeration  here),  the  spiritual  and  intellectual 
excitements  which  have  not  yet  ceased  to  visit  me,  would 
have  remained  unrealized. 

I  became  a  socialist  and  atheist  around  the  age  of  thir- 
teen, whether  before  or  after  my  bar  mitzvah  (confirma- 
tion) I  cannot  remember.  Probably  after,  because,  being  a 
contumacious  youngster,  I  would  no  doubt  have  refused 
to  go  through  with  the  ceremony  if  I  had  considered  it 
"intellectually  dishonest." 

But  the  evil  seed  sprouted  before  the  ceremony;  during 
my  last  months  at  cheder  I  was,  with  my  pointed  question- 
ing and  challenging  of  sacred  things,  the  affliction  of  my 
rehhe,  a  large,  fat,  and  decent  man  with  a  vast  black  beard, 
a  hypochondriac  wife,  and  no  pedagogic  skill  whatsoever. 
That  Manchaster  cheder  on  Waterloo  Road  might  as  a 
matter  of  fact  just  as  well  have  been  in  Rumania  for  all 
the  relationship  it  bore  to  the  surrounding  world:  the 
front  room  of  my  rebbe's  house,  thirty  to  forty  boys  be- 
tween the  ages  of  six  and  thirteen  jammed  into  it,  various 
groups  chanting  their  lessons  separately,  a  marvelously 
organized  bedlam.  And  yet  I  am  still  troubled  by  my 
wicked  behavior  toward  my  rebbe,  and  if  it  sounds  queer 
that  one  should  brood  occasionally  on  boyhood  sins  more 
than  half  a  century  old,  we  have  St.  Augustine's  warrant 
for  it;  he  in  maturity  remembered  with  passionate  weeping 
how  at  the  age  of  seven  he  had  stolen  some  pears,  not  be- 
cause, like  me  in  Ohio,  he  had  been  hungry,  but  just  for 



the  hell  of  it.  How  much  of  "just  for  the  hell  of  it"  lingers 
in  us  till  the  end! 

My  rebbe  was  a  man  of  learning  and  in  some  respects 
not  more  than  two  or  three  centuries  behind  the  times. 
He  taught  me  Hebrew  so  badly  that  I  quickly  and  willingly 
forgot  whatever  I  had  picked  up  in  seven  years  of  cheder 
attendance.  He  was,  however,  a  gifted  storyteller,  and  when 
he  went  into  the  Midrashim  (the  ancient,  extra-Biblical 
homiletic  and  folkloristic  literature),  he  held  us  fascinated. 
He  was  equally  effective  when  he  expounded  the  Pirke 
Abot  (The  "Ethics  of  the  Fathers,"  a  section  of  the  Tal- 
mud). But  the  Midrashim  and  Pirke  Abot  came  only  once 
a  week,  the  Saturday  afternoon  treat.  He  also  expounded 
then  the  beauties  of  the  ancient  Jewish  moral  and  civil 
codes;  he  dwelt  on  the  laws  of  Peot,  the  leaving  of  the 
corners  of  the  harvest  field  to  be  gleaned  by  the  widow, 
the  orphan,  and  the  stranger,  and  of  the  fruit  that  lay  on 
the  ground  after  a  windfall.  From  the  Pirke  Abot  I  learned 
at  the  age  of  eight  or  nine  that  I  would  avoid  sin  and 
egotism  if  I  remembered  what  my  origin  was — a  putrid 
drop;  also  that  he  who  puts  on  flesh  is  only  providing  food 
for  worms.  I  must  say  that  my  rebbe  did  not  seem  to  me 
to  be  troubled  by  this  last  bit  of  information.  He  was  over- 
weight and  very  fond  of  cookies  and  tea  between  regular 
meals.  During  the  week  he  tried  to  drum  Chumash  (the 
Pentateuch)  and  Rashi  (the  great  medieval  commentator) 
into  us  by  the  brute  force  of  repetition. 

When  I  became  a  socialist,  the  laws  of  Peot  outraged 
me.  Why  should  some  men  be  so  well  off  that  the  poor 
could  subsist  on  their  leavings,  and  why  should  the  Law 
countenance  this  situation  and  even  enable  the  rich  man 
to  collect  heavenly  merits  by  its  means?  I  understood 
only  much  later  that  there  was  being  implanted  in  me  a 
deep  regard  for  the  moral  element  in  ancient  Jewish  pre- 



scription  and  legislation,  and  I  regret  that  I  was  not  able 
to  tell  my  rebbe  of.  my  change  of  view. 

My  conversion  to  socialism  and  atheism  was  the  unex- 
pected end  result  of  an  event  that  occurred  when  I  was 
twelve  and  a  half  years  old.  I  won  a  scholarship  to  the 
Manchester  Secondary  School.  I  think  I  was  the  first  in 
our  clan  and  in  our  whole  Rumanian  Jewish  colony,  then 
fairly  new  in  Manchester,  to  perform  the  feat.  It  was  a 
very  good  scholarship;  free  tuition  for  five  years  and  an 
"Exhibition"  of  five  pounds  for  the  first  year.  My  parents 
were  awestruck  by  the  generosity  of  England;  they  con- 
trasted my  good  fortune  with  the  melancholy  experience 
of  my  two  older  brothers,  who  had  topped  their  classes  in 
the  village  school  of  Macheen  and  had  been  harassed  and 
insulted  for  their  Jewish  pushfulness.  As  for  me,  I  cele- 
brated the  event  by  a  revolution  in  my  reading  habits  and 
in  my  thinking. 

Until  then  I  had  devoured  weekly  ten  or  a  dozen  boys' 
magazines:  The  Boys  of  St.  Jims,  The  Boy's  Friend,  The 
Boy's  Leader,  The  Union  Jack,  The  Gem,  The  Marvel, 
and  the  like.  Since  these  magazines  used  to  cost  an  English 
penny  (two  cents)  each,  and  my  weekly  pocket  money, 
delivered  every  Saturday  afternoon,  was  a  ha'penny  (half- 
penny), I  had  to  enter  an  organization  of  twenty  boys  or 
more,  nearly  all  from  homes  as  poor  as  mine,  and  all 
equally  addicted  to  this  type  of  literature.  Two  of  us  bought 
one  magazine  and  twenty  of  us  would  have  ten  magazines 
to  pass  around.  Occasionally  double-numbers  were  issued 
in  gorgeously  colored  covers,  price  twopence,  and  if  ordi- 
nary numbers  were  musts,  double-numbers  were  double- 
musts.  We  usually  managed  somehow,  and  gorged  on  the 
thirty-two-page  issues.  When  the  news  arrived  that  I  had 
won  the  scholarship,  I  was  filled  with  a  sudden  horror  of 
my  wasted  life.  I  made  a  solemn  vow  to  put  away  folly  and 
frivolity  and  to  prepare  myself  for  greatness. 



Whether  or  not  I  immediately  began  to  ply  my  rebbe 
with  outright  socialistic  and  atheistic  questions  I  do  not, 
as  I  have  said,  remember;  if  I  did  not,  I  sailed  very  close 
to  the  wind,  an  exceedingly  ill  wind,  for  this  I  do  remem- 
ber: my  rebbe  foretold  that  I  would  come  to  a  spectacularly 
bad  end,  and  that  in  my  downgoing  I  would  involve  large 
numbers  of  Jews,  if  not  the  entire  Jewish  people,  and 
probably  a  contingent  of  gentiles  as  well.  In  our  Man- 
chester-Rumanian semi-ghetto,  socialism  and  atheism 
were  blindly  but  not  quite  unjustly  yoked  together,  and 
with  them,  not  quite  so  justly,  a  disrespect  for  the 
decencies  and  for  the  welfare  of  Jewry. 

It  was  a  predominantly  unhappy  time  for  me,  though 
shot  through  with  ecstatic  interludes.  I  was  frustrated  in 
my  search  for  knowledge.  The  new  reading  material  I 
hankered  for  was  expensive,  and  the  juvenile  section  of 
the  public  library  did  not  carry  it.  There  was  in  those  days 
a  publishing  enterprise  called  The  Sixpenny  Rationalist 
Reprints — Herbert  Spencer,  Ernst  Haeckel,  Joseph  Mc- 
Cabe  among  others.  But  who  had  sixpence?  The  bloated 
rich.  There  was  also  a  secondhand  bookstall  in  an  alley 
near  Shudehill,  where  tattered  copies  of  the  Reprints  could 
be  had  for  twopence.  Twopence  was  my  weekly  allowance 
after  I  had  won  the  scholarship,  and  though  I  earned  or 
cadged  a  few  pennies  now  and  again,  I  never  had  enough. 
In  this  new  world  I  had  entered  there  were  no  companions 
with  whom  to  pool  resources.  I  used  to  borrow  the  Re- 
prints at  a  penny  a  time;  I  also  used  to  borrow  surreptiti- 
ously. I  have  long  been  convinced  that  the  cadaverous 
young  man  who  ran  the  bookshop  knew  all  about  my 
unpaid  borrowings,  and  it  has  occurred  to  me  that  such 
business  practices  accounted  for  his  cadaverous  appear- 

I  resented  my  poverty  and  was  in  some  ways  ashamed 
of  it.  I  could  not  make  friends  with  more  prosperous  fellow 



high-school  students.  The  front  room  of  our  house  was 
used  by  my  father  as  his  shoe-repair  shop,  while  everybody 
else's  front  room  was  a  parlor.  There  wasn't  a  room  for 
talking  in. 

My  deepest  source  of  unhappiness  was  spiritual.  I 
wrestled  in  the  usual  adolescent  fashion  with  ontological 
problems  which  gave  a  nihilistic  background  to  my  social 
and  moral  thinking.  I  also  dabbled  in,  rather  than  studied, 
astronomy.  I  managed  to  get  hold  of  an  ancient  telescope 
with  a  one  and  a  half  inch  aperture,  and  constructed  a 
clumsy  hand-worked  equatorial  which  moved  so  jerkily 
that  it  was  worse  than  nothing,  except  for  the  pride  it  gave 
me  in  my  workmanship;  but  I  never  went  beyond  the 
mathematics  of  the  three  Keplerian  laws.  It  was  all  loosely 
observational,  a  sidereal  Cook's  tour,  watching  for  Halley's 
comet  and  sketching  the  mountains  of  the  moon  and  look- 
ing for  nebulae  and  asteroids.  I  had  unforgettable  mo- 
ments, and  I  never  see  the  Pleiades  without  recalling  the 
cry  of  terror  and  bliss  that  escaped  me  when  I  first  turned 
my  ramshackle  little  telescope  on  them.  But  as  I  probed 
the  heavens  I  saw  our  planet,  our  solar  system,  and  our 
galaxy  shrink  into  insignificance.  The  clockwork  of  the 
stars  and  planets  was  reflected  back  for  me  into  human 
affairs,  exposing  will  and  purpose  as  illusions.  Life  was 
meaningless  and  all  our  striving  a  vain  gesticulation: 
slogans,  movements,  dreams  of  human  improvement, 
martyrdoms — nothing  but  a  predetermined  jigging  of 
matter.  The  greatest  thinkers  of  the  ages  were  in  no  better 
case  than  the  most  benighted  clods,  and  to  the  wisest  I 
conceded  at  best  only  a  superior  sophistication  in  self- 

Among  the  first  paperbacks  I  bought — I  shall  return  to 
the  occasion — ^were  certain  works  by  one  Robert  Blatch- 
ford,  a  widely  admired  socialist  and  science  popularizer, 



and  those  that  left  the  profoundest  impression  on  me  were 
his  Merrie  England,  Britain  for  the  British,  and  Not 
Guilty,  a  Defense  of  the  Bottom  Dog.  Blatchford's  name 
was  always  linked  with  two  others,  Victor  Grayson  and 
H.  M.  Hyndman.  They  were  the  terrible  trio  of  revolu- 
tionary England  fifty-odd  years  ago.  Grayson  was  a  young 
socialist  member  of  Parliament,  Hyndman  was  the  elderly 
intellectual  leader  of  the  British  Labor  Party,  which  had 
just  begun  to  make  a  respectable  showing  in  the  House  of 
Commons.  To  me  they  were  the  Trinity,  and  their  fates 
were  various.  Grayson  disappeared  from  England  and  not 
much  later  died  obscurely  in  a  little  town  in  Australia. 
Blatchford,  who  at  one  time  edited  the  socialist  daily,  The 
Clarion,  became  a  reactionary  and  a  spiritualist  after  the 
First  World  War.  Only  Hyndman,  the  most  substantial  of 
the  three,  carried  on  consistently  until  his  death  in  1921. 
By  then  much  had  happened  to  me.  I  had  settled  in 
America  and  established  my  friendship  with  Uncle  Berel; 
I  had  done  my  two  years  in  the  American  army,  I  had  been 
a  secretary  on  the  Morgenthau  Commission  which  investi- 
gated the  Polish  pogroms  of  1919.  I  had  been  demobilized 
in  Paris,  where  I  had  opened  a  public  stenography  office  for 
Americans,  I  had  served  as  interpreter  on  the  Allied  Repa- 
rations Commissions  in  Berlin  and  Vienna,  I  had  mastered 
Yiddish  and  was  learning  Hebrew,  I  had  married,  and  I 
had  returned  to  America  with  my  first  publishable  novel. 
But  to  go  back.  Blatchford's  effect  on  me  in  my  adoles- 
cence was  shattering.  He  was  a  Sinaitic  voice  and  every- 
thing he  said  was  law.  I  remember,  fifty  years  after  I  last 
read  him,  phrases  of  his  which  were  like  hammer  blows. 
On  the  irreconcilability  of  interest  between  worker  and 
employer  he  quoted  a  Hindu  proverb:  "I  am  bread,  thou 
art  the  eater,  how  can  peace  be  between  us?"  On  the  un- 
suspected dormant  strength  of  the  working  classes  he  said: 



"They  are  like  the  lions  in  the  zoo;  every  keeper  knows 
that  they  can,  with  a  sudden  effort,  break  the  bars  of  the 
cages;  but  the  lions  don't  know  it."  On  the  problem  of 
the  lowest  kind  of  labor  in  a  socialist  state  and  who  would 
do  it,  he  said:  "We  can  make  it  attractive  by  shortening 
the  hours.  But  at  least  we  won't  see  fat  aldermen  guzzling 
oxtail  soup  at  dinner  while  factory  girls  starve."  I  am  not 
sure  of  the  exact  phrasing,  but  I  am  sure  of  the  key  words. 
I  went  about  repeating  them  somberly  to  myself.  "Fat  alder- 
men guzzling  oxtail  soup!"  What  a  revolting  picture!  And 
the  juxtaposition  with  starving  factory  girls!  I  took  it  that 
oxtail  soup  was  the  most  luxurious  and  expensive  kind  of 
soup  in  existence;  not  necessarily  tasty,  but  gratifying  to 
the  sense  of  power  and  exclusiveness,  like  peacocks'  noses 
at  Roman  banquets.  That  aldermen  were  fat,  and  that  they 
guzzled,  was  self-understood;  I  was  filled  with  indignation 
and  disgust.  Equally  self -understood,  because  Blatchford 
said  so — also  because  it  was  such  an  appealing  thought — 
was  the  lion's  tragic  unawareness  of  its  own  powers;  and  I 
tagged  on  to  Blatchford's  scientific  discovery  some  lines 
from  Shelley: 

Rise  like  lions  after  slumber, 
In  unvanquishable  number; 
Ye  are  many,  they  are  few. 

At  thirteen  I  became  a  stump  speaker  for  the  Socialist 
Party,  stupefying  the  neighborhood  and  vindicating  my 
rebbe.  I  also  went  out,  as  a  prodigy,  to  neighboring  towns: 
Oldham,  Wigan,  Altringham,  Irlam  o'  the  Heights  (pro- 
nounced Irlamathites,  like  a  sect,  or  a  Biblical  tribe).  At 
street  corners  near  and  far  I  thundered  in  a  treble  against 
Winston  Churchill  when,  having  been  promoted  to  a 
cabinet  post  in  Asquith's  government,  he  contested  a  by- 
election  in  Manchester.  I  defeated  him.  But  it  was  his  Tory 



opponent,  Joynson-Hicks,  who  got  in,  and  not  the  socialist 
I  had  supported,  a  certain  Daniel  whose  second  name  I 
have  forgotten.  The  Churchill  supporters  sang,  to  the  tune 
of  Tramp,  Tramp ,  Tramp,  the  Boys  Are  Marching: 

Vote,  vote,  vote  for  Winston  Churchill 
He  is  sure  to  win  the  day. 
Don't  be  fooled  by  Joynson-Hicks 
And  his  dirty  Tory  tricks  .  .  . 

I  sang  with  the  socialists: 

Dare  to  be  a  Daniel, 
Dare  to  stand  alone  .  .  . 

(which  we  pretty  nearly  did)  and: 

The  people's  flag  is  deepest  red. 
It's  shrouded  oft  our  martyred  dead; 
And  ere  their  limbs  grew  stiff  and  cold 
Their  heart's  blood  dyed  its  every  fold. 

What  the  victorious  Tories  sang  I  do  not  remember. 

At  one  point  in  my  earlier  socialist  career  I  was  a  fiery 
supporter  of  Lloyd  George,  the  Liberal,  because  he  advo- 
cated the  nationalization  of  land.  The  Liberals  had  a  quite 
extraordinary  song  which  even  today  would  smack  of  ex- 
treme leftism  if  not  of  barricades.  Like  many  English 
political  songs,  it  was  borrowed,  as  to  melody,  from  Amer- 
ica— this  time  Marching  Through  Georgia: 

The  land,  the  land,  'twas  God  who  made  the  land! 
The  land,  the  land,  the  ground  on  which  we  stand! 
Why  should  we  be  beggars  with  the  ballot  in  our  hand? 
God  made  the  land  for  the  people. 

My  high-school  and  university  years  were  filled  with 
political  and  intellectual  excitement,  and  with  extremes 



of  mood  that  were  almost  manic-depressive.  I  got  to  know 
the  Lancashire  weavers  and  their  clog-and-shawl-wearing 
wives,  and  I  conceived  an  enduring  affection  for  certain 
little  places  and  groups — warm,  eager,  hopeful  talk,  kindly 
faces  and  bad  teeth,  fish  and  chips  after  the  meetings,  or 
sometimes  only  chips  carried  out  of  the  chip  shop  on  a 
piece  of  newspaper.  But  I  was  not  at  ease  in  my  early 
socialist  phase.  I  suffered  from  recurrent  longings  for  a 
Jewish  way  of  life.  I  was  troubled  less  by  my  atheistic  than 
by  my  socialist  philosophy.  "Jewish  atheist,"  while  obvi- 
ously unorthodox,  was  somehow  not  impossible;  "Jewish 
socialist,"  with  its  implication  of  cosmopolitanism  and  re- 
jected Jewishness,  was.  I  lived  in  a  marvelous  muddle, 
which  I  shall  describe  further  on. 

In  my  post-high-school  socialist  phase  I  was  acutely  un- 
comfortable for  other  reasons.  At  the  university,  to  which 
I  won  a  three-year  scholarship  at  sixty  pounds  a  year  (a 
large  sum  in  those  days),  my  socialist  comrades  exasperated 
me  by  their  dogmatism,  by  their  intellectual  bullying  (I 
was  all  persuasiveness,  of  course),  and  above  all  by  their 
addiction  to  the  phrase:  "For  the  simple  reason  that  .  .  ." 
The  simple  reason  was  never  satisfactory;  besides,  "simple" 
was  a  reflection  on  my  intelligence;  worst  of  all,  they  were 
always  implying  that  a  good  socialist  never  asked  funda- 
mental questions. 

Among  my  comrades  in  those  days  was  a  volcanic, 
diminutive  redhead,  Ellen  Wilkinson,  who  ultimately  be- 
came a  cabinet  minister  in  the  Labor  government.  Another 
was  a  tall,  lean  young  man  with  a  death's-head  face,  J.  T. 
Walton-Newbold.  He  told  us  that  he  was  going  to  die  soon 
of  consumption,  and  he  looked  it.  He  broke  that  promise 
and  many  others.  He,  too,  entered  Parliament  and  later 
went  from  socialism  to  Communism,  from  Communism  to 
Fascism.  Wilkinson  and  Walton-Newbold  were  ready  to 



Stake  their  lives  on  the  prophecy  that  no  great  war  would 
ever  be  fought  in  an  industrialized  area;  the  proof  was  the 
last  imperialist  war,  the  Russo-Japanese,  which  had  been 
fought  out  in  the  empty  spaces  of  the  Far  East.  War,  they 
said,  there  would  be,  but  not  where  productive  property 
would  be  endangered;  the  Pax  Capitalisma,  an  echo  of  the 
Pax  Romana,  forbade  it. 

I,  on  the  other  hand,  was  ready  to  stake  my  life,  or  at  any 
rate  talk  others  to  death,  on  the  thesis  that  there  would  not 
be  any  kind  of  war  any  more.  Let  a  war  be  declared,  I 
said,  and  the  workers,  the  toiling  masses,  would  rise  in 
their  might — workers  never  rose  in  anything  else  for  me — 
and  pull  the  imperialist  conspirators  from  their  place  of 
power  to  establish  universal  and  everlasting  brotherhood 
and  peace. 

My  sharpest  disagreements  with  my  fellow-socialists  were 
provoked  by  their  rigid  historical  and  economic  determin- 
ism. I  agreed  that  socialism  was  the  only  conceivable  moral 
order,  but  how  could  that  which  was  automatically  in- 
evitable also  be  moral?  I  continued  to  chant  loyally:  "The 
nationalization  of  the  instruments  of  production,  distri- 
bution, and  exchange,"  but  in  spite  of  despondent  lapses 
into  a  wider  mechanistic  philosophy — during  which  I 
hadn't  the  slightest  interest  in  mankind's  future  or  my 
own — I  found  the  "inevitability"  of  socialism  not  only 
incompatible  with  a  theory  of  morals,  but  personally 
offensive  as  well.  If  the  world  was  moving  to  perfection 
under  an  iron  law  and  at  its  own  pace,  it  needed  no  help 
from  me;  I  was  making  a  fool  of  myself  arguing  with 
people  to  bring  about  what  they  could  neither  accelerate 
nor  delay.  "Inevitability"  took  the  heart  out  of  me. 

This  frustration  did  not  face  me  in  Zionism.  Herzl  had, 
to  be  sure,  declared  the  Jewish  state  to  be  a  historic  in- 
evitability, but  Zionists  were  not  as  a  rule  given  to  historic 



determinism.  We  believed  that  a  Jewish  state  ought  to  be 
created  in  Palestine;  to  work  for  it  was  right  and  proper 
whether  or  not  we  succeeded.  We  differed  in  our  estimates 
of  our  chances,  but  we  were  content  with  a  belief  in  the 
feasibility  of  our  program.  Those  that  went  beyond — and 
there  were  many — appealed  to  faith,  not  to  historic 

In  New  York  I  discovered  for  the  first  time  that  there 
was  such  a  thing  as  a  socialist-Zionist  movement.  There 
may  have  been  a  branch  of  it  in  Manchester,  but  I  do  not 
remember  coming  across  it.  The  Zionists  I  knew  were  anti- 
socialist,  the  JcAvish  socialists  anti-Zionist.  But  more  pleas- 
ing was  the  discovery  that  one  could  be  a  socialist  within 
the  general  Zionist  movement,  which  was  strongly  tinged 
with  liberalism.  One  could,  through  the  Zionist  congresses 
and  funds,  support  socialist-oriented  enterprises  in  Pales- 
tine, and  thus  work  for  socialism  at  large  by  creating  a 
socialist  Jewish  state.  I  did  not  join  the  socialist-Zionist 
party.  I  had  had  enough  of  "inevitability." 

In  our  few  exchanges  on  Zionism  and  socialism  I 
prophesied  to  Uncle  Berel  that  a  Jewish  homeland  would, 
when  it  came  into  being,  play  its  part  in  making  a  better 
world,  and  in  my  new-found  passion  for  the  Bible  I 
quoted:  'Tor  from  Zion  shall  go  forth  the  Law  and  the 
word  of  God  from  Jerusalem."  I  kept  my  fingers  crossed,  as 
it  were,  for  the  second  half  of  this  famous  verse,  for  after 
all  I  was  an  atheist.  I  interpreted  "Law"  in  my  own  way, 
the  law  of  economic  equality. 

Well,  here  I  am  in  the  Jewish  homeland,  which  was 
something  of  a  mirage  fifty  years  ago.  It  is  a  remarkable 
phenomenon — certainly,  despite  many  defects,  a  progres- 
sive force  in  world  affairs;  but  it  is  not  socialistic  or  ever 



likely  to  be  of  its  own  free  will.  Nor  do  I  want  it  to  be,  for 
I  no  longer  believe  that  "the  nationalization  of  the  instru- 
ments of  production,  distribution,  and  exchange"  is  the 
best  managerial  formula  for  a  country's  affairs — or  even  a 
good  one.  I  don't  believe  it  to  be  workable,  at  least  not 
until  human  beings  are  at  such  an  advanced  moral  stage 
that  system  is  irrelevant.  What  is  more,  I  don't  believe  that 
"the  toiling  masses"  want  all-round  economic  equality; 
they  want  a  decent  life,  a  sufficiency  with  security,  and 
freedom  spiced  with  the  play  of  reasonable  differentia- 
tions; and  if  they  can  get  all  this  without  economic 
equality,  they  will  gladly  concur. 

In  this  they  are  morally  right,  with  a  profound  intuitive 
and  practical  rightness.  I  see  the  problem  now  in  a  totally 
different  light.  It  is  a  destructive  baseness  which  impels 
men  to  say:  "This  is  what  I  want  for  myself,  and  I  won't 
let  others  have  more." 

Long  after  I  had  seen  Uncle  Berel  for  the  last  time  I 
came  across  a  passage  from  Karl  Marx  which  helped  me  to 
crystallize  permanently  my  rejection  of  economic  egalitar- 

A  house  may  be  large  or  small,  but  as  long  as  the 
surrounding  houses  are  equally  small,  it  satisfies  all 
social  requirements  of  a  dwelling-place.  But  let  a 
palace  arise  by  the  side  of  this  small  house,  and  it 
shrinks  from  a  house  to  a  hut.  The  smallness  of  the 
house  now  indicates  that  its  occupant  is  allowed  to 
have  either  very  few  claims  or  none  at  all;  and  how- 
ever high  it  may  shoot  up  with  the  progress  of  civiliza- 
tion, if  the  neighboring  palace  shoots  up  in  the  same 
or  greater  proportion,  the  occupant  of  the  small  house 
will  always  find  himself  more  uncomfortable,  more 
discontented  .  .  .  [My  italics.  M.S.] 



What  a  ghastly  indictment  of  human  nature,  what  a 
despairing  prospect  for  the  human  species!  I  know  it  is 
not  easy  to  define  "sufficiency,"  but  I  am  sure  that  if  a  man 
has  to  survey  his  neighbor's  portion  before  he  can  decide 
whether  his  own  is  adequate,  the  very  concept  of  "suffi- 
ciency" disappears;  the  principle  of  measurement  has 
ceased  to  be  appetitional  satisfaction  and  has  become  envy. 
But  envy  is  unappeasable;  it  is  watchful,  touchy,  self- 
promoting;  it  discovers  differences  where  there  are  none,  so 
that  if  objective  economic  equality  could  be  enforced,  the 
feeling  of  it  would  not  follow.  Thus  the  demand  for  an 
unattainable  feeling  of  equality  becomes  the  enemy  of  an 
attainable  satisfaction;  it  is  the  sacrifice  of  humanity  on  the 
altar  of  a  nobly  immoral  principle. 

Together  with  the  chanted  "nationalization  of"  etc., 
other  slogans  of  the  early  days  have  taken  on  a  hollow 
sound.  "Workers  of  the  world,  unite!  You  have  nothing 
to  lose  but  your  chains  ..."  When  the  slogan  was  coined, 
a  hundred  years  ago,  it  was  a  barely  permissible  propa- 
ganda exaggeration;  by  the  early  part  of  the  twentieth 
century  it  was  a  disastrous  falsehood.  The  German  and 
Italian  workers  had  something  to  lose,  and  they  lost  it  to 
Hitler  and  Mussolini.  The  workers  of  Russia  had  less  to 
lose,  except  in  prospect,  and  it  will  be  some  time  before 
they  realize  what  they  lost  unnecessarily  in  order  to  im- 
prove their  condition. 

But  I  have  more  than  that  to  say  about  the  socialist 
movement.  If  its  theoretical  base  now  looks  to  me  like 
nonsense,  I  am  still  filled  with  admiration  for  its  practical 
achievements  and  with  gratitude  for  the  part  it  has  played 
in  my  life.  The  modern  Western  world  would  today  be  a 
charnel  house  if  the  socialist  movement  had  not  inter- 
vened. Its  courage  and  idealism,  if  accompanied  by  wrong 
reasoning,  sprang  from  the  right  moral  instinct.  Imperfect 



our  modern  Western  world  certainly  is,  but  one  can  only 
think  with  horror  of  what  it  would  have  been  without  the 
great  socialist  movement.  The  classic  capitalists  were 
mostly  horrible,  conscienceless  men.  Their  historic  func- 
tion was  to  make  the  breakthrough,  to  squeeze  out  of  the 
workers  the  indispensable  accumulation  of  investment 
capital.  Driven  by  obsessive  greed  and  lust  for  power,  they 
performed  their  function  with  furious — and  unnecessary — 
brutality.  The  pace  could  and  should  have  been  slower; 
the  withholding  of  surplus  profit  need  not  have  been  so 
extortionate.  When  the  breakthrough  came,  the  capitalists 
had  no  intention  of  calling  a  halt;  they  wanted  the  ac- 
cumulation to  go  on  forever,  to  their  own  undoing  and 
that  of  society.  Their  kind  is  still  with  us,  an  unteachable, 
irreclaimable  minority;  they  are  the  blind  troglodytes 
who  fought  the  New  Deal  at  every  step  and,  ragingly  im- 
potent to  nullify  it,  will  continue  to  fight  its  extension. 
(To  use  an  Irishism:  there  are  some  people  who  will  not 
thank  you  for  saving  their  lives  until  they  are  dead.)  But 
if  they  are  a  minority  today,  that  is  due  to  the  socialist 
movement  and  its  wide  peripheral  influence;  and  if  the 
socialist  movement  is  everywhere  in  decline,  it  is  because 
the  creative  changes  it  has  forced  through  have  outdated  it. 
What  a  scurvy  trick  history  has  played  on  the  Commu- 
nists, and  no  wonder  they  loathe  the  socialist  movement 
with  a  convulsive  loathing.  It  was  their  original  hope  to  step 
in  where  the  capitalists  had  done  all  the  dirty  work  and  take 
over  as  angelic  liberators.  But,  being  able  to  seize  power 
only  in  pre-capitalist  countries,  they  are  forced  to  do  their 
own  dirty  work,  and  they  are  doing  it  no  better  than  the 
early  capitalist  commissars.  No,  they  are  not  doing  it  as 
well;  they  are  forcing  the  pace  even  more  brutally,  and 
they  have  repressed  the  inventiveness  and  resourcefulness 
of  individual  competitive  greed. 



I  remember  with  even  greater  admiration  the  socialist- 
Zionists  who,  under  infinitely  difficult  conditions,  pre- 
vented the  nascent  Jewish  homeland  from  developing  into 
an  early-capitalist  exploitative  state  based  on  cheap  labor. 
Israel  would  not  have  its  place  among  the  world  democ- 
racies had  it  not  been  for  the  primitive  kvutzot,  the  later 
kibbutzim  (it  is  well  to  note  that  this  word  is  now  inter- 
national), and  the  workers'  co-operatives.  In  Israel,  too, 
the  socialist  movement  has  completed  its  mission.  The 
labor  leaders  of  Israel  still  call  themselves  socialists,  but  it 
is  an  honorific  title;  they  have  no  program  for  universal 
nationalization.  The  kibbutzim  themselves  are  becoming 
village  corporations  with  equality  for  all  members,  a 
decent  form  of  life  which  somehow,  to  the  distress  of  the 
"socialist"  leaders,  is  not  spreading.  And  in  America  the 
socialist-Zionist  movement  which  is  committed  to  the  sup- 
port of  "socialist"  Israel  is  entirely  middle  class. 

What  remains  in  me  of  my  one-time  socialism?  Only 
the  moral  element  and  a  certain,  informed  alertness  to 
capitalist  hypocrisies  and  dodges.  My  social  philosophy 
is  an  amalgam  of  what  my  rebbe  and  the  Prophets  (it  is  a 
long  time  since  I  have  winced  at  "the  word  of  God")  taught 
me  and  what  I  have  read,  from  my  youth  onward,  in  leftist 
books,  including  Karl  Marx  and  Engels.  I  am  what  Com- 
munists call  a  "reformist"  and  a  "rotten  liberal."  My  views 
on  the  techniques  of  social  amelioration  come  from  a  lay- 
man's acquaintance  with  economics,  history,  psychology, 
etc.  My  instincts  are  with  the  worker  as  against  the  em- 
ployer simply  because  the  employer  is  as  a  rule  better  off. 
But  I  no  longer  believe,  as  I  used  to,  that  the  worker  is 
always  right  vis-a-vis  the  employer;  and  I  am  grateful  that 
workers  have  now  improved  their  condition  to  the  point 
where  they  can  sometimes  be  in  the  wrong. 

I  also  brought  out  of  the  poverty  of  my  childhood  and 



youth,  and  out  of  later  economic  hardship,  a  distaste  for 
rich  people,  though,  like  the  anti-Semite  with  regard  to 
Jews,  I  make  exceptions.  Some  of  my  best  friends  .  .  .  Also 
a  distaste  for  expensively  elegant  women  and  women  who 
like  to  have  men  spend  money  on  them,  either  from 
greediness  or  as  a  lift  to  their  vanity.  I  could  never  afford 
their  company,  which  I  would  not  accept  as  charity.  I 
have  no  pleasure  in  posh  hotels  and  restaurants.  Most  of  all 
I  dislike  "easy  spenders" — who  are  seldom  easy  givers;  they 
show  a  contempt  for  money  out  of  excessive  deference  to  it; 
they  stand  treat  to  those  who  have  no  need  of  it  because 
they  want  to  be  appreciated  "on  a  higher  plane."  And  that 
contempt  of  theirs  for  money  is  in  more  ways  than  one  a 
contempt  for  human  beings — for  the  careworn  who  must 
watch  their  pennies,  for  the  fools  who  are  impressed  by 
easy  spending.  Easy  spending  and  easy  giving  are  psycho- 
logically as  well  as  arithmetically  in  conflict;  an  easy 
spender  wants  to  be  surrounded  by  good  humor  and  good 
fellowship,  the  sight  of  misery  upsets  him  without  moving 

I  often  wish  I  could  have  talked  all  these  things  over 
with  my  rebbe,  Kalman  Moskovitch.  It  is  not  unlikely  that 
if  I  had  argued  with  him  from  the  moral  postulates  he 
taught  rather  than  as  a  "scientific"  socialist,  we  would  have 
found  much  in  common;  but  the  only  time  I  saw  him  after 
I  left  Manchester  was  not  propitious  for  leisurely  discus- 

It  was  in  1929,  in  Palestine,  as  it  was  then  called,  two 
days  after  the  bloody  anti-Jewish  riots  of  that  year.  On 
August  25  I  set  out  with  Colonel  Frederick  Kisch,  the 
Palestine  Chairman  of  the  Jewish  Agency,  on  a  tour  of  the 
cities  and  settlements.  I  had  put  on  my  old  American  uni- 



form,  hoping  to  impress,  if  not  intimidate,  any  Arabs  we 
might  encounter  on  the  road,  and  we  carried  revolvers.  We 
went  north  from  Jerusalem,  visited  Beth  Alpha  and  Heph- 
zibah,  the  two  little  kibbutzim  at  the  foot  of  Mount  Gilboa 
that  had  stood  off  an  Arab  invasion  of  the  Valley  of  Jezreel. 
Then  we  proceeded  to  Safad  in  Galilee,  where  a  number  of 
old  people  had  been  murdered. 

I  knew  that  my  rebbe  had  settled  some  years  before  in 
that  ancient  and  sacred  city  of  the  Cabbalists,  and  when  I 
asked  Colonel  Kisch  whether  we  might  not  spend  ten  min- 
utes looking  for  him,  so  that  I  might  send  a  message  to 
Manchester,  he  readily  agreed. 

We  found  him  in  one  of  the  narrow,  crooked,  sloping 
alleys  on  whose  gray,  crumbling  walls  centuries  of  Jewish 
learning,  piety,  poverty,  and  Messianic  conjuration  are  al- 
most visibly  encrusted.  When  he  came  to  the  door  I  recog- 
nized him  at  once,  though  his  beard  was  now  completely 
snow-white.  He  stared  at  me,  puzzled,  until  I  said,  in  my 
recently  acquired  Sephardic  Hebrew — a  pronunciation  he 
would  associate  with  Christian  priests:  ''Rebbe,  eincha 
makir  oti — don't  you  recognize  me?"  Then  his  eyes 
brimmed  over,  he  uttered  a  loud  cry,  and  answered  in 
Yiddish  (for  like  all  religious  Jews  in  those  days  he  reserved 
Hebrew  only  for  prayer  and  study):  "Moishe!  Redst  takke 
loshen  koidesh,  ober  fort  vi  a  goy — you  do  indeed  speak 
Hebrew,  but  it's  still  like  a  gentile!" 


®  51  ® 





TEP  BY  STEP  over  the  years  Manchester  has  receded, 
not  from  my  affections  but  from  my  sense  of  reality,  and 
all  that  was  in  it  has  undergone  a  change  into  another 
incarnation.  Visit  by  visit  I  have  seen  faces  age,  and  one  by 
one  disappear:  parents,  uncles,  cousins,  a  friend  here,  an- 
other there.  New  faces  have  come  up  in  swarms,  nephews, 
nieces,  grandnephews,  grandnieces,  and  I  have  long  since 
lost  count.  Yes,  yes,  I  too  have  become  a  grandfather,  but  I 
did  it  openly,  while  they  did  it  behind  my  back;  I  did  it 
naturally  and  imperceptibly,  while  they  did  it  in  stealthy 
leaps  and  bounds.  I  appear  on  the  scene  at  intervals,  be- 
longing less  and  less,  more  and  more  a  historical  oddity, 
the  vague  one  who  went  away  to  America  a  long,  long  time 
ago.  I  am  an  indeterminate  identity  to  the  young,  a  subject 
of  occasional  unurgent  questions:  "Was  Great  Uncle  Joe  his 
brother  or  his  cousin?"  (My  brother  Joe,  nine  years  my 
junior,  died  in  his  wonderful  manhood  in  1949.  I  date  my 
old  age  from  his  death.)  I  am  reintroduced  or  introduced 
for  the  first  time  to  little  strangers  and  half-strangers  whose 
fleeting  curiosity  is  a  forecast  of  the  oblivion  awaiting  my 
name;  they  move  me  to  confused  reflections,  for  this  one 
has  my  father's  chin,  that  one  my  mother's  eyes,  and  a  third 
my  ears — floating  fragments  of  the  dead  and  near-dead 


handed  down  by  the  genes  in  a  sure  but  anonymous  and 
fragmentated  immortality.  I  feel  my  limbs,  my  organs,  and 
my  physical  peculiarities  being  shuffled  out  into  the  future, 
a  pack  of  cards  mixed  with  other  packs. 

They  hardly  know  me  and  they  know  not  at  all  that 
Manchester  world  in  which  I  grew  up.  They  are  neither 
immigrants  nor  the  children  of  immigrants,  but  second- 
generation  English.  Their  parents  are  well-to-do — we 
would  have  called  the  poorest  of  them  rich.  Education? 
They  can't  imagine  not  going  to  high  school  and  perhaps 
university,  scholarships  or  no  scholarships.  Rumania  means 
less  to  them  than  Italy  to  third-generation  American- 
Italians.  The  Lower  Strangeways  of  my  childhood  and 
youth  is  almost  equally  alien  territory  to  them,  a  shattered 
and  battered  slum  through  which  they  pass  rapidly  on  visits 
between  the  upper-  and  middle-class  areas  they  live  in — 
Didsbury,  Higher  and  Lower  Broughton,  Prestwich.  It  was 
in  decline,  with  little  room  to  decline  in,  even  before  the 
Second  World  War;  now,  half  obliterated  by  bombings  and 
meanly  restored  here  and  there,  it  speaks  to  me  in  a  voice 
made  intelligible  only  by  love,  like  an  old  and  indigent 
friend  who  has  lost  his  teeth  and  wears  a  cheap,  ill-fitting 
artificial  set.  The  one  glory  of  Old  Strangeways,  the  Assize 
Court,  vast,  black,  magnificent,  a  sooty  Moses  perched  in 
precarious  majesty  on  its  tower,  holding  two  sooty  Tablets 
of  the  Law — that  terrifying  many-turreted  palace  which 
judges  entered  from  horse-drawn  carriages  announced  by 
scarlet-coated  trumpeters — is,  or  was  on  my  last  visit,  a 
roofless  shell,  though  the  ugly  jail  behind  it  is  still  in  busi- 
ness. Delphiniums  grew  for  several  years  on  the  vacant  lots 
now  covered  again  by  repulsive  little  structures.  Lower 
down  on  Strangeways  the  side  and  back  streets  remain, 
with  some  changes:  Norfolk,  mostly  gaps  (one  is  where  our 
house  stood,  at  number  5),  Suffolk,  Bedford,  Trafalgar 



(sudden  and  incongruous  bravura!),  Choir,  Enid,  Perkins, 
Melbourne,  Broughton  Lane.  What  have  my  grand- 
nephews  and  grandnieces  to  do  with  that  blighted  wilder- 
ness, and  what  can  they  imagine  of  the  forebears  who  in- 
habited it  half  a  century  ago?  Only  I,  a  revenant,  poke 
around  periodically,  finding  fewer  and  fewer  living  traces. 
Rosenberg's  butcher  shop  is  still  there — what  a  handsome 
man  he  was,  with  his  Napoleon  III  beard,  more  like  a 
noble  killer  of  men  on  the  grand  scale  than  a  retail  pur- 
veyor of  animal  carcasses — but  of  course  he  is  long  dead, 
and  when  I  intruded  to  ask  about  his  son  Ruby,  with 
whom  I  went  to  school,  I  found  that  he  too  was  dead. 
Gordon's  fruit  and  vegetable  shop  is  still  there,  and  the 
Brunswick  pub,  but  where  is  old  white-whiskered  Maude, 
the  shoemaker's  supply  man?  And  Saunder's  and  Wag- 
staffe's  toffee  shop,  kept  by  two  twittering  old  maiden 
ladies  given  to  amateur  recitations,  is  gone,  too.  Pincu's 
barbershop  went  long  before,  in  my  time,  when  he  ran 
away  from  his  wife  and  family  to  America,  shortly  before 
the  one-eyed  book-and-prayer-shawl  dealer  stole  a  bride's 
dowry  (twenty  gold  pounds!)  and  disappeared  without  a 

We  came  from  a  country  still  largely  medieval.  Well-to- 
do  Rumanians  in  the  larger  towns  were  no  doubt  nearer  to 
the  nineteenth  century,  but  my  parents  knew  nothing  of 
coal  fires  and  gaslights,  which  they  approached  in  Man- 
chester with  amazement  and  uneasiness,  coaxed  into  their 
use  by  blase  and  much-amused  relatives  who  had  preceded 
them  by  several  months.  In  Rumania  we  had  burned 
penkes  (faggots)  in  an  iron  stove  in  the  middle  of  the  room, 
not  clumps  of  black  stone  in  a  hollow  in  the  wall  behind  a 
grating.  A  kerosene  lamp  was  a  natural  thing,  an  infiam- 



mable  metal  tube  sticking  out  of  the  wall  smelled  of  witch- 
craft. We  clung  to  the  lamp  even  after  we  had  become 
familiar  with  gas,  and  I  used  to  be  sent  out  after  a  penny- 
worth of  "lamp  oil"  at  a  time.  The  greasy  feel  of  the  bottle, 
which  I  clutched  to  my  bosom  for  fear  of  dropping  it,  is 
still  in  my  fingers,  its  smell  is  still  in  my  nostrils.  But  you 
could  do  things  with  the  lamp  that  you  couldn't  do  with 
the  gas  bracket;  you  could  stand  it  on  the  table  on  which 
father  could  lay  the  Yiddish  newspaper  or  magazine  or 
book  supplied  by  the  one-eyed  dealer,  and  we  could  cluster 
round  and  listen,  entranced,  in  an  intimate  circle. 

We  clung  to  other  primitive  usages  brought  out  of 
Rumania;  in  the  preparation  of  coffee,  for  instance.  My 
father  was  a  great  coffee  drinker,  and  he  took  it  a  la  turque, 
highly  concentrated  and  highly  sweetened.  Coffee  was  not 
a  brown  powder  that  came  in  cans;  it  was  green  beans  that 
came  in  bags.  We  roasted  and  ground  it  ourselves.  The 
roaster  was  a  hollow  metal  cylinder  a  foot  in  length  and  a 
hand's-breadth  across.  It  revolved  on  an  axis  that  pro- 
truded at  one  end  in  a  sharp  point  and  at  the  other  in  a 
long  handle.  You  stuck  the  point  into  a  chink  at  the  back  of 
the  fireplace,  and  you  turned  the  handle  with  the  right 
hand  while  you  held  the  axis  in  the  hollow  of  your  left. 
The  coffee  beans  rattled  above  the  glowing  coals,  a  deli- 
cious odor  was  wafted  from  the  roaster.  Every  so  often  you 
pulled  it  away,  opened  the  sliding  door  with  a  rag,  and 
peeped  in.  When  the  beans  had  acquired  the  right  shade 
of  black-brown  you  poured  them  into  a  basin  to  cool. 
When  you  were  done  with  the  roasting  you  poured  the 
beans  a  cupful  at  a  time  into  the  grinder,  another  cylinder, 
smaller,  narrower,  heavier,  of  yellow  brass.  You  held  that 
between  your  knees,  gripping  it  with  the  left  hand  and 
turning  the  wooden  handle  with  the  right.  What  a  busi- 
ness! It  must  have  taken  a  couple  of  hours  to  prepare  half 



a  pound  of  coffee,  and  I  don't  know  how  many  thousands 
of  man-hours,  as  they  call  it,  were  expended  in  the  Samuel 
household  before  we  surrendered  to  prepared  coffee.  Ex- 
cept for  the  coffee  a  la  turque,  we  drank  it  heavily  mixed 
with  chicory.  I  used  to  think  it  a  necessary  ingredient,  and 
missed  it  when  I  left  home.  I  only  realized  later  that  the 
chicory  was  an  adulterant  put  in  for  reasons  of  economy. 

The  roaster  and  grinder  we  brought  with  us  from 
Rumania,  like  the  family  candlesticks.  We  also  brought 
along  a  wooden  bowl  to  chop  meat  in  and  a  small  chopper. 
Meat  grinders  were  already  in  general  use,  and  Rosenberg 
the  butcher  may  have  had  one.  If  he  did,  my  mother  turned 
from  it  as  Uncle  Berel  turned  from  the  pressing  machine. 
It  wasn't  right  not  to  do  the  work  yourself,  or  to  delegate 
it  to  an  outlandish  machine  that  hadn't  the  human  touch, 
and  this  applied  particularly  to  the  chopped  liver  for  the 
festive  Sabbath  meal  on  Friday  evenings.  Mother  chopped 
on  other  days  too,  I  suppose,  but  the  sound  of  a  pious 
chopping  in  a  wooden  bowl  haunts  my  memory  of  Friday 
afternoons,  a  ghostly  tattoo  which  speaks  sometimes  of  a 
lost  world  and  sometimes  of  superfluous  labors  added  to 
the  unavoidable  drudgery  which  went  into  the  care  of  a 
household  of  eight. 

These  objects  and  customs  brought  from  Rumania  were 
accompanied  by  others  which  were  not  without  their  par- 
allels among  our  gentile  neighbors  in  enlightened  Man- 
chester. My  mother  suffered  cruelly  from  gallstones  and 
jaundice.  The  idea  of  an  operation  terrified  her;  she  took 
all  kinds  of  medicaments,  some,  including  Karlsbad  water 
— of  which  she  drank  innumerable  bottles — prescribed  by 
doctors,  others,  unknown  to  the  pharmacopoeia,  prescribed 
by  charwomen,  one  of  whom,  I  remember,  was  represented 
by  her  colleague  as  an  authority  on  "the  janders."  Years 
later  I  realized  that  her  specialty  was  jaundice.  Twice  my 



father  managed  to  send  my  mother  to  Karlsbad,  on  the 
suggestion  of  the  doctors  that  if  she  drank  the  waters 
straight  from  the  well,  instead  of  from  bottles,  she  would 
be  cured.  This  was  in  later,  more  affluent  years,  when  my 
father  had  a  shoeshop;  still,  it  entailed  a  great  financial 
effort;  between  that  and  doctors'  and  druggists'  bills  he 
struggled  along  and  might  have  managed  but  for  two  weak- 
nesses, one  for  extending  credit  indiscriminately,  the  other 
for  cosigning  loans.  My  mother  had  a  whole  collection  of 
Rumanian  folk  remedies,  among  which  were  a  paste  made 
from  bird  droppings  and  a  stocking  soaked  in  urine  and 
laid  across  the  throat;  what  these  were  specifics  for  I  do  not 

My  father  was  a  victim  of  lumbago.  He,  too,  consulted 
doctors  and  quacks  impartially.  In  Rumania  he  once  un- 
derwent a  grisly  cure;  on  the  advice  of  a  peasant  acquain- 
tance he  had  himself  enclosed  naked  in  the  freshly  split 
carcass  of  a  cow.  He  always  wore  a  tight  band  of  red  cloth 
round  his  waist,  and  since  it  was  always  slipping,  he  would 
rewind  it  two  or  three  times  a  day,  performing  a  slow  and 
stately  circular  dance  in  his  long  underwear.  He  must  have 
been  told  that  a  supporting  belt  would  give  him  more 
relief,  but  he  would  not  forego  his  cummerbund. 

Our  home  cooking,  like  that  of  the  other  homes  in  our 
group,  was  as  Rumanian-Jewish  as  it  could  be  made  in  the 
new  surroundings.  Mammaligge  we  had  when  corn  meal 
was  available;  kachkeval,  the  real  rank  kind,  was  a  rare 
event.  The  other  dishes  so  beloved  of  Uncle  Berel  were 
somewhat  more  frequent,  but  still  for  festive  occasions 
only.  We  had  meat  twice  a  week;  gefillte  fish,  chopped  liver 
and  chicken,  were  mandatory  for  the  Sabbath  eve,  and  the 
meal  was  always  topped  off  by  a  dessert  of  carrots  boiled 
with  honey  and  raisins.  Chicken  goes  together  in  my  mind 
with  Friday-night  candles  and,  by  later  association,  with 



Zionist  banquets  and  a  dessert  of  long  speeches.  Hollishkes 
— chopped  meat  and  rice  wrapped  in  cabbage  leaves  and 
boiled  sour-sweet — were  my  mother's  specialty.  It  is  a 
Rumanian-Hungarian  dish.  Our  rossel  was  a  variant  of  the 
universal  meat-and-vegetable  dish,  nearer  to  an  Irish  stew 
than  to  a  goulash.  A  great  standby  was  fiocke-eeta  (as  we 
pronounced  it:  a  Rumanian  Jewish  scientist  at  the  Weiz- 
mann  Institute  has  kindly  supplied  me  with  the  correct 
spelling,  facaluiete,  which  makes  no  impression  on  me); 
it  consisted  of  boiled  mashed  kidney  beans  covered  with  a 
dark  sauce  and  burnt  onions.  It  tasted  "loovly,"  as  they  say 
in  Lancashire,  and  had  the  consistency  of  plaster  of  Paris 
just  before  it  sets;  one  could  count  on  it  to  lie  on  the 
stomach  pleasantly  until  the  next  day.  For  the  rest,  we  had 
cheese,  olives,  onions,  and  lots  of  bread.  When  melon  was 
obtainable,  melon  and  bread  was  a  meal;  rye  bread  with 
garlic  rubbed  into  the  crust,  or  white  bread  with  halva,  was 
also  considered  a  meal.  If  you  had  enough  bread  you  only 
needed  the  tzimbroit,  the  with-bread. 

Uncle  Berel  imposed  himself  on  my  childhood  memories 
by  his  renewal  of  them  when  I  came  to  America,  and  his 
thoughtful  Tartar  face  is  superimposed  on  mammaligge 
and  karnatzlech  and  beigalech  and  katchkeval.  The  Ru- 
mania my  parents  spoke  of  so  frequently  fuses  with  Uncle 
Berel  and  his  cronies  in  the  restaurant  of  New  York's  East 
Side.  Buhush,  Glodorlui,  Fokoshan,  Podoturk,  Barlad, 
Yasse,  Braila,  the  towns  and  villages  which  colonized  my 
Manchester  world  were  never  forgotten  by  us,  either. 
There  were  some  who  had  long  spasms  of  homesickness  till 
the  end;  my  father  was  one  of  them,  and  he  would  dream 
of  resettling  among  the  scenes  of  his  brilliant  military 
career.  There  was  much  in  England  he  never  became 
reconciled  to,  and  English  cigarettes  were  high  on  the  list. 
He  was  a  passionate  smoker,  though  smoking  was  forbid- 



den  him,  and  he  choked  on  Woodbines,  which  were  five 
for  a  penny.  In  exceptionally  good  weeks  he  treated  himself 
to  half  an  ounce  of  Rumanian  tobacco  and  a  booklet  of 
Rumanian  cigarete  paper;  I  can't  imagine  where  he  got 
them.  The  cigarette  paper  was  called  Dorobantul,  manu- 
factured by  the  Fratelli  Braunstein  of  Braila,  and  on  the 
cover  was  the  magnificent  colored  picture  of  a  hussar.  What 
with  his  nostalgia  for  the  good  old  times  and  his  fixation  on 
Rumanian  tobacco,  my  father  actually  returned  to  Ru- 
mania at  the  age  of  fifty-eight,  alone;  within  six  months  he 
was  back  in  Manchester.  It  was  no  longer  the  same  place, 
and  if  it  had  been,  he  was  no  longer  the  same  man;  perhaps 
even  the  tobacco  didn't  taste  as  it  once  had,  at  the  source. 
My  mother,  however,  had  all  of  Uncle  Berel's  loathing  of 
Rumania:  she  did  not  even  sentimentalize  about  it. 

My  father  was  a  disciplinarian  with  a  passion  for  clean- 
liness and  order.  His  favorite  word — he  uttered  it  sternly, 
an  army  command — ^was  Curitzenye  (cleanliness)!  In  our 
first  Manchester  home,  in  Norfolk  Street,  there  was  no  bath 
when  we  moved  in,  and  my  mother  used  to  bathe  the  chil- 
dren Saturday  nights  in  a  tub  before  the  fire  (only  recently 
did  the  question  occur  to  me:  where  and  when  did  my 
parents  bathe?).  As  soon  as  he  could  scrape  up  the  money, 
my  father  had  a  bath  and  boiler  installed.  Almost  as  badly 
as  Rumanian  tobacco  he  missed  the  steam  baths  which  the 
Jewish  community  had  maintained  in  Macheen,  together 
with  a  ritual  bath  for  the  women,  near  the  synagogue.  I 
remember  the  steam  bath  well,  with  its  wooden  tiers  and 
clouds  of  steam,  with  men  ascending  the  tiers  Adam-naked, 
smiting  each  other  with  willow  withes  and  shouting  glee- 
fully in  unnatural  voices  while  the  peasant  attendant 
dashed  bucket  after  bucket  of  water  on  the  red-hot  stones 
below,  so  that  the  steam  came  hissing  up  in  wild  burst  after 
burst.  It  recurs  to  me  as  a  vaguely  symbolic  scene,  half 



apocalyptic,  half  quaint,  half  William  Blake,  half  Marc 
Chagall.  I  stayed  at  ground  level,  which  was  hot  enough 
for  me,  envious  of  and  terrified  by  the  berserk  hardihood 
of  the  grown-ups. 

I  got  along  badly  with  my  father,  and  reconciliation 
came  only  after  I  had  left  home.  The  long  letters  he  wrote 
me  in  1923-24  were  not  only  his  life  history  but  his  apolo- 
gia, as  were  mine  to  him.  I  had  by  then  learned  to  admire 
the  elemental  strength  of  his  character,  and  his  autobiog- 
raphy confirmed  my  admiration  with  many  vivid  details. 

He  had  run  away  from  his  native  village  of  Glodorlui 
and  a  harsh  stepmother  at  the  age  of  eight  or  nine.  (Leav- 
ing the  village  at  dawn,  he  had  paused  at  the  top  of  a  hill, 
lowered  his  trousers,  squatted,  and  cried:  "Glodorlui,  kiss 
my  ass!")  He  had  wandered  and  starved  among  strangers, 
falling  in  with  mendicants  and  criminals  such  as  Mendelle 
Mocher  Sforim,  the  grandfather  of  modern  Yiddish  litera- 
ture, describes  in  his  Fishke  the  Cripple,  the  scum  of  the 
Jewish  world.  (I  did  not  know  in  my  boyhood  and  youth 
that  there  was  a  Jewish  criminal  class;  occasional  male- 
factors, yes,  like  Pincu  the  barber  and  the  absconding 
bookseller,  but  not  a  class.)  He  somehow  got  himself 
apprenticed  to  a  shoemaker,  who  instead  of  teaching  him 
the  craft  turned  him  into  a  household  slavey.  He  found 
another  employer,  who  taught  him  but  swindled  him  out 
of  his  pay.  He  found  a  third  and  a  fourth — he  seems  to 
have  been  as  set  on  becoming  a  shoemaker  as  I  have  been 
on  becoming  a  writer.  In  one  letter  he  described  how, 
being  in  rags,  he  stole  a  pair  of  trousers  and  ran  off,  was 
pursued,  caught,  stripped,  and  left  half  naked  in  a  snow- 
covered  field.  In  spite  of  the  kindness  he  found  now  and 
again,  it  is  almost  beyond  me  that  he  did  not  turn  into  an 
irreclaimable  criminal.  It  all  happened  nearly  a  hundred 
years  ago  (and  in  another  land;  besides,  the  man  is  dead), 



but  my  stomach  turns  over  when  I  think  o£  the  little  boy 
who  was  to  become  my  father  begging  a  piece  of  bread  at 
strange  doors,  sleeping  in  the  open  or  on  bare  floors,  and 
guarding  through  it  all  the  original  gift  of  his  integrity.  I 
have  called  him  dour,  and  he  was;  yet  he  had  his  expansive 
moods,  when  he  loved  to  read  aloud  to  the  family.  I  was 
unjust  to  him;  all  of  us  were;  it  is  some  consolation  that 
we  reached  an  understanding  before  the  end. 

He  came  of  an  enormous  family,  the  partial  records  of 
which  I  have  put  together  from  what  he  told  me  and  from 
later  encounters  with  brothers  and  cousins  of  his  in  France, 
America,  and  Israel.  His  father,  a  widower  with  several 
children,  married  a  widow  by  the  name  of  Kossover,  also 
with  several  children,  and  several  more  were  born  of  the 
marriage.  In  French  they  call  it  enfants  de  trois  lits,  in 
Yiddish  "mine,  yours,  and  ours."  I  have  a  list  of  thirteen. 
The  original  family  name  was  Weissbuch,  but  an  older 
brother  of  father's,  Tuli  (Julius),  having  evaded  conscrip- 
tion and  being  on  the  run,  came  to  Macheen  for  a  while 
and  changed  his  name  to  Samuel.  My  father,  to  help  him 
out,  followed  suit,  with  the  result  that  my  oldest  brother, 
who  had  been  "christened"  Samuel,  went  through  life  like 
an  echo.  My  father's  paternal  grandfather,  the  terminal  of 
my  researches,  was  called  Naphthali,  and  by  transposition 
of  the  Hebrew  letters,  Pantoul.  He  was  a  bee-keeper,  and 
in  his  old  age  went  to  die  in  Palestine,  settling  in  one  of 
four  sacred  cities,  whether  Jerusalem,  Tiberias,  Hebron, 
or  Safad  (my  rehbe's  retreat),  I  have  not  been  able  to  find 
out.  There  are  legends  that,  rejuvenated  by  the  Holy  Land, 
he  married  again  and  begat  numerously,  like  Abraham  of 
old  after  the  death  of  Sarah;  but  what  he  left  behind  in 
Rumania,  namely,  my  father's  father  and  my  father's  uncles 
and  aunts,  seems  to  have  equaled,  whether  by  one  or  more 
marriages,  my  own  grandfather's  tripartite  household. 



Among  my  father's  Rumanian-Jewish  contemporaries 
in  Manchester  many  did  not  get  beyond  a  rudimentary 
command  of  English.  My  father  rejected  the  language  al- 
most in  toto,  and  what  he  acknowledged  he  subjected  to 
dictatorial  transformations.  For  Trafalgar  Street  he  said 
Interfolger,  for  Mazeppa  Moozet'n,  for  Enid  Heener.  He 
used  to  send  me  to  Maude's  shoemaker  supply  shop  for 
neintzigshteel  shmoolerletz:  nails,  nine  sixteenths,  small 
heads.  Here  and  there  I  perceive  a  clue  to  the  principle 
behind  the  transformation.  Heener  is  Yiddish  for  hens, 
neintzig  means  ninety,  shmool,  narrow,  and  letz  a  clown,  or 
a  kobold;  but  Interfolger  and  Moozet'n  and  shteel  hang  in 
the  air.  He  heard  us  children  sing  "London  Bridge  Is 
Falling  Down"  and  reissued  it  as  Unterdebikl  svorendak. 
It  was  useless  to  correct  him,  for  that  was  what  he  seemed 
to  hear  no  matter  how  pedantically  we  chopped  the  words 
into  syllables  for  him.  Boodegaren  was  his  version  of  Board 
of  Guardians  (a  free-loan  institution)  till  the  end  of  his 
days;  he  may  have  been  assimilating  it  to  Bulgaren — Bul- 

Sometimes  he  fell  back  on  plain  Yiddish.  A  shilling  was 
a  herdel,  a  little  beard,  because  of  the  likeness  of  Edward 
VII  on  many  of  the  coins;  a  gold  sovereign  was  a  jerdel,  a 
little  horse,  because  of  St.  George  mounted  and  slaying  the 
dragon.  Thus  a  guinea  (a  pound  plus  a  shilling,  no  longer 
coined  or  in  circulation,  but  still  widely  used  in  pricing) 
became,  attractively  enough,  a  jerdel  mit  a  herdel,  a  horselet 
with  a  beardlet;  but  a  sixpenny  piece  (half  a  shilling,  col- 
loquially a  "tanner")  remained  substantially  English 
though  modified  by  a  Yiddish  diminitive  suffix  into  a 
sixpensel.  The  charming  and  exotic  florin  (the  two-shilling 
piece),  which  few  Englishmen  connect  with  Dante's  birth- 
place, my  father  ignored;  for  the  plural  of  shilling  he  re- 
verted to  his  private  English:  shillakkes:  beardlets  would 



have  been  too  suggestive  of  a  congregation.  Into  certain 
transformations  he  put  a  touch  of  derision  and  parody: 
shillakkes  was  one  of  them.  More  understandably,  he 
pointed  up  the  absurdity  of  "key,"  phonetically  the  Ru- 
manian Yiddish  for  cow,  and  since  our  house  key  hung  on 
a  string  behind  the  front  door,  and  my  father  could  not 
bring  himself  to  imply  that  one  could  open  a  door  with  an 
ordinary  cow,  it  was  always  die  kih  mit'n  shtrik,  the  cow 
with  the  string.  There  was,  however,  no  mockery  in  fallink 
(short  flat  a,  accentuated)  for  farthing,  the  smallest  English 
coin,  worth  one  half  of  a  ha'penny,  now  discontinued. 

During  our  first  year  in  Manchester  my  father's  earnings 
were  small  and,  though  supplemented  by  my  brother 
Mendel's  (who  never  went  to  an  English  school  and  never- 
theless developed  a  taste  for  the  best  in  English  literature), 
kept  us  on  a  bare  subsistence  level.  In  the  second  year  my 
oldest  brother,  Sam,  came  on  from  Rumania,  where  he  had 
been  left  for  lack  of  fare,  and  with  three  workers  in  the 
house  it  was  a  little  easier.  But  Mendel  and  Sam  were, 
respectively,  eleven  and  fourteen  years  old  when  they 
arrived  in  Manchester,  and  the  total  income  cannot  have 
been,  at  first,  more  than  two  pounds  ten  shillings  a  week. 
There  were  seven  of  us  to  feed  and  clothe,  and  when  my 
brother  Joe  was  born  in  1904,  eight.  In  their  later  teens  my 
older  brothers  made  good  money  as  clothing  machinists, 
and  my  father  saved  up  for  a  shoeshop.  My  twin  sister 
Hannah,  my  younger  sister,  Dora,  and  Joe  the  baby,  were 
not  helpful  until  much  later. 

Two  pounds  ten  a  week,  even  for  a  family  of  eight,  was 
somewhat  above  slum  average  in  England  at  the  turn  of  the 
century.  But  we  had  special  calls  on  our  income:  the 
cheder,  kosher  food,  which  cost  more,  the  Passover  celebra- 
tion, with  its  own  expensive  dietary  demands,  the  syna- 
gogue   seats    for    the    High    Holy    Days.    There    was   a 



quasi-religious  injunction  to  buy  the  children  new  clothes 
for  Passover  and  the  New  Year;  we  were  better  dressed 
than  our  gentile  schoolmates.  We  gave  more  to  charity  (this 
I  learned  later);  here  and  there  a  wandering  beggar,  now 
and  again  a  collection  for  Russian  pogrom  victims;  there 
were  Rabbi  Meir  the  Wonderworker's  collection  boxes  for 
saintly  scholars  in  the  Holy  Land,  and  the  blue-white  boxes 
of  the  Jewish  National  Fund  for  the  redemption  of  the 
Holy  Soil.  It  was  unthinkable  not  to  contribute  something 
toward  the  dowry  of  an  orphan  bride;  and  then  there  were 
immigrant  relatives — sixpences,  shillings,  and  even  half- 

My  mother  was  more  generous  than  my  father,  but  my 
father  gave  beyond  our  means  without  really  wanting  to. 
I  have  referred  to  his  habit  of  cosigning  loans  right  and 
left;  he  never  learned  from  experience,  and  it  was  not 
unusual  for  him  to  be  paying  off  for  six  or  seven  defaulters 
at  a  time;  the  sums  were  considerable,  anywhere  from 
three  to  five  pounds.  My  rebbe  undertook,  at  my  mother's 
tearful  prompting,  to  speak  to  my  father,  and  he  pointed 
to  the  text  of  the  Book  of  Proverbs:  "My  son,  if  thou  be 
surety  for  thy  friend,  if  thou  hast  stricken  thy  hand  with  a 
stranger,  thou  art  snared  with  the  words  of  thy  mouth  .  .  . 
thou  shalt  smart  for  it."  But  my  father  was  never  cured  of 
this  ancient  and  not  wholly  dishonorable  weakness. 

A  heavy  charge  on  our  resources  was  snobbery.  The 
dread  of  being  thought  poorer  than  we  were  made  us 
poorer  still,  though  this  is  not  a  specifically  Jewish  afflic- 
tion. Outside  of  misers,  mendicants,  saints,  and  other  ex- 
ceptional cases,  everyone  wants  to  be  thought  better  off 
than  he  is.  It  was  our  Jewish  misfortune  that  we  had  more 
indices  of  status  than  our  gentile  neighbors;  our  advantage 
over  them  was  our  abstemiousness.  No  one  in  our  circle 
was  a  frequenter  of  pubs,  and  we  drank,  sparingly  enough, 



only  on  festive  occasions.  We  played  cards,  not  for  money; 
also  Lotto  (imported  from  Rumania),  which  has  recently 
become  an  international  vogue,  if  not  an  epidemic,  under 
the  name  of  Bingo. 

Let  me  add  that  if  our  charity  was  not  free  from  exhibi- 
tionism, its  foundation  was  nevertheless  compassion.  Char- 
ity is  enjoined  equally  on  Jews  and  Christians,  but  Jews 
for  various  reasons  have  developed  the  virtue  to  a  higher 
degree.  The  Jewish  Biblical  text  runs:  "If  thine  enemy  be 
hungry,  give  him  bread  to  eat;  if  he  be  thirsty,  give  him 
water  to  drink"  (Proverbs).  The  operative  strength  of  the 
tradition  among  Jews  is  brought  out  by  a  curious  Yiddish 
curse:  "May  you  some  day  be  in  want  and  come  to  me  for 
help  and  find  me  destitute" — i.e.,  "I  know  I'll  obey  the 
law  and  yield  to  pity  if  I  only  can;  I'd  rather  be  starving 

My  mother  must  originally  have  had  an  iron  constitu- 
tion to  live  on,  as  she  did,  to  the  age  of  seventy-two,  sur- 
viving my  father  by  eight  years;  but  her  latter  years  were 
much  lightened  by  improvement  in  family  circumstances. 
She  was  of  a  deeply  pious  nature,  and  though  she  could  not 
always  prevent  us  from  drinking  milk  after  a  meat  dish 
(forbidden  by  the  dietary  law),  she  never  permitted  un- 
kosher  food  to  enter  the  house.  However,  she  did  not  go  so 
far  as  to  keep  two  sets  of  dishes  for  meat  and  milk  meals. 
She  taught  all  her  children  the  morning  prayer  which  must 
be  recited  as  soon  as  one  opens  one's  eyes,  the  Moidie 
Annie,  as  she  pronounced  it,  praising  God  for  returning 
our  souls  to  us  after  the  night's  sleep.  She  did  not  know 
what  the  Hebrew  words  meant,  neither  of  course  did  I.  I 
long  wondered  who  "Moidie  Annie"  and  "Beany  Shmussy" 
were,  and  discovered  in  due  course  that  the  first  was,  in 
Sephardic  Hebrew,  modeh  ani,  "I  acknowledge,"  and  the 
second  hi  nishmati,  "in  me  my  soul."  This  was  followed 



by  a  Yiddish  prayer,  in  which  we  undertook  to  do  any  good 
thing  that  good  and  pious  people  asked  of  us. 

I  need  hardly  say  that  my  mother  never  failed  to  bless 
the  candles  on  the  Sabbath  eve,  first  spreading  a  fresh  white 
cover  on  the  table.  That  gesture  of  the  circling  hands  with 
which  she  gathered  in  the  light  and  carried  it  to  her  eyes, 
and  the  accompanying  prayer  uttered  in  a  mysterious 
whisper,  come  back  to  me  powerfully.  So  does  the  Passover, 
which  was  observed  with  most  of  the  minutiae:  the  sym- 
bolic cleaning  out  of  the  last  traces  of  leaven  with  brush, 
shovel,  and  taper,  the  renewal  of  the  household — a  thor- 
ough spring  cleaning — the  complicated,  charming,  and 
exciting  ritual  of  the  seder  (a  religious  family  Feast  of  Lib- 
eration filled  with  symbol  and  song — and  good  things  to 
eat)  on  the  first  two  evenings,  the  replacement  of  bread  by 
matzoth  for  the  prescribed  period  of  eight  days.  Most 
powerful  of  all  has  been  the  effect  of  the  Rosh  Hashanah 
and  the  Yom  Kippur,  the  New  Year  and  the  Day  of  Atone- 
ment. I  chafed  at  having  to  stay  at  my  father's  side  in  the 
synagogue  for  hours  at  a  stretch,  but  when  the  ram's  horn 
was  blown  I  trembled  with  awe  and  wonder.  Not  that  the 
sound  itself  was  necessarily  imposing — the  ^/lo/ar-blower 
was  often  less  than  adept — but  something  passed  through 
the  little  synagogue,  a  hint  of  mystery  and  of  immeasurable 
stretches  of  time.  A  sound  of  weeping  went  up  from  the 
women's  gallery,  where  my  mother  sat,  and  when  she  came 
home  red-eyed  and  kissed  us  children,  and  I  mumbled 
shyly  to  her  in  the  traditional  formula — or  as  near  as  I 
could  get  to  it  in  my  faulty  Yiddish:  "May  your  prayers 
have  brought  you  a  good  year" — my  heart  was  wrung.  I  do 
not  doubt  that  later  experience  has  thrown  back  on  those 
seasons  and  festivals  an  emotional  response  which  was 
weaker  in  my  childhood,  but  a  response  was  there  and  im- 
bedded itself  in  me.  It  is  a  common  observation  that  the 



rituals  of  self-identification  which  Jews  abandon  last  are 
those  of  the  New  Year  and  the  Day  of  Atonement,  and  the 
saying  of  the  Kaddish,  or  Sanctification,  on  the  anniversary 
of  a  father's  or  a  mother's  death. 

My  mother,  whose  dream  it  was  that  I  would  some  day 
become  what  she  called  Kreiserrahbiner  (she  meant  Kreis- 
rahhiner,  chief  rabbi  of  a  district,  but  confused  Kreis  with 
Kaiser),  was  more  religiously  inclined  than  any  of  her  rela- 
tives or  acquaintances,  though  I  do  not  remember  a  single 
non-religious  family  in  our  circle.  Neither  were  there  any 
outstanding  pietists,  except  for  my  mother's  father — an 
unexpected  development,  I  was  told,  of  his  extreme  old 
age.  My  father  had  lapsed  into  average  piety  from  a  higher 
standard  in  Rumania,  where  I  remember  him  donning  the 
phylacteries  and  prayer  shawl  at  home.  At  sundown  on 
Friday  he  laid  aside  his  last  and  his  tools,  and  covered  his 
workbench  in  the  front  room  with  a  cloth,  which  he  did 
not  remove  until  Sunday  morning.  Throughout  the  Sab- 
bath he  used  to  refrain  from  smoking,  according  to  the  law, 
and  I  used  to  wonder  how  he  did  it.  I  drew  on  memories 
of  my  father  for  the  portrayal  of  the  Ebionite  rabbi-shoe- 
maker in  my  novel  The  Second  Crucifixion.  Their  char- 
acters were  very  different,  but  certain  behavior  patterns 
were  the  same;  so,  I  am  sure,  were  some  of  the  techniques 
of  their  craft. 

My  mother  was  a  woman  of  strong  natural  intelligence, 
and  I  loved  to  sit  and  chat  with  her,  letting  her  do  most  of 
the  talking.  She  understood  people,  and  had  sensitive  views 
on  right  and  wrong,  on  the  becoming  and  the  unbecoming. 
She  had  a  meditative,  even  philosophical  strain.  I  remem- 
ber how,  late  one  Friday  night,  when  she  thought  she  was 
alone  in  the  room,  she  apostrophized  the  dying  candles, 
and  likened  their  spluttering  to  the  protest  of  human 
beings  summoned  by  death.  "Vus  tzankt  ihr  azoi,  lechtlech, 



why  do  you  bicker  so,  little  candles?  Will  it  help  you  at  all? 
Had  you  been  made  longer,  you  would  burn  longer, 
but  some  candles  are  born  short  and  some  are  born  long, 
and  God  made  some  lives  long,  some  short."  So  Sholom 
Aleichem's  Tevye  the  Dairyman  might  have  spoken;  and 
I  was  again  reminded  of  my  mother  when  I  read  Marcus 
Aurelius  many  year  later:  "Why  do  you  protest  that  your 
life  is  not  longer  than  it  is?  You  might  as  well  protest  that 
you  are  not  taller  than  you  are." 

wShe  was  fond  of  the  folk  phrase:  "Long  as  the  Jewish 
exile";  "My  troubles  are  long,  long  as  the  Jewish  exile." 
One  of  her  favorite  songs  came  from  a  Goldfaden  opera: 

While  the  ears  of  wheat  are  tender. 
Young  and  light  and  short  and  slender, 
While  the  ears  of  wheat  are  tender. 

They  are  safe  always; 
The  wind  cannot  take  hold  to  shake  them. 
Nor  the  raging  storm  to  break  them. 
The  wind  cannot  take  hold  to  shake  them, 

In  their  youthful  days. 
But  with  time  grown  heavy-weighted. 
To  destruction  they  are  fated. 

The  song  is  a  parable  of  man,  and  also  of  the  Jewish 
people;  it  is  a  warning  against  luxury  and  pride  and  pos- 
session, though  it  seems  to  contain  a  certain  fatalism:  can 
the  grain  help  ripening?  Another  of  Goldfaden's  arias,  also 
a  favorite  with  my  mother,  was  less  involved,  and  preached 
the  same  lesson. 

A  shepherd  lived  in  days  of  old. 

Of  Abram's  holy  seed; 
And  prospering  in  field  and  fold. 

He  learned  the  sin  of  greed. 



So  turning  from  his  shepherd's  trade 
He  sought  the  mart  where  gold  is  made 

And  lost  his  home  and  land; 
Then  beggared,  racked  by  hunger's  pains. 
He  sold  himself  to  toil  in  chains 

Beneath  the  oppressor's  hand. 

(The  translation  is  free,  and  lacks  the  folk  simplicity  of  the 

The  theme  of  merited  exile  runs  through  the  Jewish 
folklore  of  two  thousand  years:  Biblical  in  origin,  filling 
the  Yiddish  phase  of  Jewish  life,  echoing  a  remote,  happy, 
forfeited  past. 

In  Manchester,  as  in  Macheen,  my  mother  had  little  op- 
portunity to  indulge  her  girlhood  love  of  the  theater.  A 
Yiddish  strolling  company  came  at  long  intervals  to  play  in 
the  Derby  Street  Jewish  Workingmen's  Hall,  but  the 
cheapest  seats  were  sixpence,  in  the  rear.  She  found  a  kind 
of  substitute  in  my  father's  readings,  at  which  I  too  was  an 
enthralled  listener. 

The  closing  circle  of  memory  connects  again  with  ex- 
periences long  forgotten  and  reveals  how  much  more  they 
did  for  me  than  I  was  aware  of  for  a  time.  The  reading 
sessions  were  held  irregularly,  being  dependent  on  the 
arrival  of  new  material  at  the  bookseller's — periodicals  and 
books,  mostly  from  America.  There  were  novels  by 
Shomer,  an  immensely  popular  hack,  but  also  stories  by  the 
living  classics,  Sholom  Aleichem,  Yal  Peretz,  and  Mendelle 
Mocher  Sforim.  My  father  would  hold  forth  and  we  would 
listen,  moveless,  enchanted,  to  whatever  had  come  to  his 
hand,  infantile  trash  or  first-rate  literature.  For  the  ritual 
had  its  own  beloved  appeal.  It  was  escape  and  sublimation; 
our  surroundings  faded  away  together  with  our  personal 
worries;  we  were  in  other  lands,  other  ages,  tasting  the 
luxury  of  sympathies  which  entailed  no  obligations. 



The  ecstasy  with  which  I  listened  was  heightened  by  the 
terror  of  finding  myself  suddenly  thrust  out  of  the  circle. 
The  sessions  lasted  late  into  the  night,  and  if  my  presence 
was  detected  after  ten  o'clock  I  would  be  packed  off  in- 
stantly— there  was  no  nonsense  with  my  father — and  then 
I  felt  as  though  I  were  being  thrust  not  only  out  of  the 
circle  but  out  of  life  and  into  my  grave.  Oh,  how  bitter  it 
was  to  know  that  the  fascinating  story  was  continuing  to 
weave  itself  under  the  lamplight  while  I,  for  my  alleged 
youthfulness — and  suppose  there  was  a  certain  speciousness 
in  the  allegation,  was  this  the  time  to  bring  it  up? — re- 
mained in  dark  ignorance,  and  would  never,  never  know 
how  it  all  came  out.  I  could  of  course  ask  my  mother  the 
next  day,  but  that  would  have  been  useless;  her  version 
never  jibed  with  mine.  They  were  in  fact  different  stories, 
the  one  she  followed  and  the  one  I  built  up  for  myself  as 
I  listened  to  my  father's  voice.  The  very  titles  of  the  books 
had  a  special  content  for  me. 

One  of  them,  by  Shomer,  was  Groisfierst  Constantin, 
and  the  sound  of  it  was  as  majestic  as  it  was  unintelligible. 
I  knew  that  grois  meant  big,  but  fierst  was  a  blank,  and  I 
did  not  know  that  Constantin  was  a  man's  name.  I  im- 
agined a  giant  of  some  kind  engaged  in  mysterious  move- 
ments and  holding  impenetrable  conversations  with  beings 
as  mysterious  as  himself.  I  would  try,  while  falling  sadly 
asleep,  to  continue  the  story  for  myself,  but,  outside  the 
circle  of  the  lamplight  and  beyond  the  reach  of  my  father's 
voice,  my  inventiveness  went  dead. 

A  long  time  afterwards  it  dawned  on  me  that  Groisfierst 
Constantin  meant  only  Grand  Duke  Constantine,  and  the 
magic  went  out  of  the  title. 

Another  novel  of  Shomer's  which  my  father  read  out  to 
us  was  called  Der  Reicher  Betler,  The  Rich  Beggarman.  I 
knew  what  each  word  meant  separately,  but  the  combina- 
tion was  a  challenge  to  my  imagination.  The  fantastic  in- 



dividual  it  denoted  presented  himself  to  me  in  two  forms. 
In  the  first  he  was  actually  a  mendicant,  going  from  door  to 
door  with  his  burlap  sack,  unaware  that  he  was  rich;  as  I 
saw  it,  his  true  condition  was  being  concealed  from  him  by 
a  magician.  I  thought  of  him  also  as  an  echo  of  King  Solo- 
mon, who  became  a  wandering  beggar  when  his  likeness 
and  his  throne  were  both  usurped  by  the  demon  Asmodeus, 
his  inveterate  enemy.  In  the  second  form  (which,  I  later 
discovered,  was  the  right  guess),  he  was  a  rich  man  who, 
after  an  absence  of  many  years,  returned  to  his  native  vil- 
lage pretending  abject  poverty  in  order  to  test  his  relatives 
and  friends.  The  second  form  was  my  favorite,  because  I 
could  more  easily  project  myself  into  the  role;  at  some 
future  date  I  would,  after  a  similar  absence  from  home, 
take  revenge  on  my  father  by  showering  him  with  unex- 
pected riches,  heaping  coals  of  fire  on  his  head,  never  even 
mentioning  his  heartlessness  in  ordering  me  to  bed  in  the 
middle  of  a  reading. 

Many  words  and  episodes  connected  with  those  readings 
made  permanent  places  for  themselves  in  dormant  memory 
cells,  and  their  emergence  into  consciousness  depended  on 
chance,  above  all  the  chance  that  I  would  turn  back  to 
Jewish  things.  And  perhaps  this  was  not  chance  at  all,  but 
a  ripening  in  darkness  and  an  inevitable  pushing  through 
to  the  light,  and  chance  only  in  the  sense  that  we  remain 
alive  by  chance. 


®  71  ® 


The  Clan 


Y  FATHER  was  the  only  member  of  his  family  to 
settle  in  Manchester.  The  others  who  left  Rumania — they 
were  counted  in  the  dozens  over  the  years,  some  under  the 
original  name  of  Weissbuch,  others  under  the  adopted 
name  of  Samuel — scattered  in  all  directions.  I  met  two 
Weissbuch  uncles  in  Paris,  one  a  fur  dealer,  the  other  a 
conductor  on  the  International  Wagons-Lits;  and  what  an 
odd  thing  it  was  to  have  my  own  uncle  punch  my  ticket 
when  I  made  the  trip  from  Paris  to  Warsaw  in  1919.  I  met 
a  cousin  of  my  father,  a  Weissbuch,  in  Rochester,  New 
York.  He  was  a  kindly  well-to-do  pawnbroker  who  had 
much  to  tell  me  about  the  past  generations.  There  are 
Weissbuchs  and  Samuels  in  Florida  and  California,  in 
Canada  and  Australia.  Of  many  I  have  only  the  report. 
They  are  all  descendants  of  old  Pantoul,  that  great  replen- 
isher  of  the  earth. 

One  large  group  stayed  on  in  Rumania,  and  those  that 
survived  the  Nazi  occupation  were  ultimately  caught  in 
the  Communist  trap.  A  few  managed  to  get  out  and  found 
their  way  to  Israel.  I  had  not  known  them  in  person,  nor 
had  we  ever  communicated,  and  the  circumstances  under 
which  we  finally  came  together  had  all  the  improbability 
of  a  Hollywood  fantasy.  If  the  legends  of  old  Pantoul's 


continuing  fertility  in  the  Holy  Land  have  any  foundation 
in  fact,  I  may  very  well  have  made  contact  there  with  third 
and  fourth  cousins  at  various  removes,  but  I  have  never 
identified  one  of  them. 

My  mother's  family  came  to  Manchester  in  full  force, 
part  of  it  moving  on,  as  I  have  told,  to  America.  I  have  a 
group  photograph  taken  in  1902,  in  the  squalid  backyard 
of  5  Norfolk  Street,  on  the  occasion  of  my  aunt  Chaya's 
wedding,  which  was  celebrated  in  our  upstairs  front  room. 
Uncle  Berel  is  in  it,  a  billycock  set  jauntily  on  his  head,  a 
cigarette  dangling  from  his  lips.  I  am  there  with  my  twin 
sister  Hannah  and  my  younger  sister  Dora,  in  the  front 
row,  seated  on  the  ground,  and  into  my  face  only  a  Words- 
worth could  have  read  trailing  clouds  of  glory;  I  see  instead 
a  suggestion  of  the  Mongoloid.  All  the  older  people  are  of 
course  dead,  so  are  most  of  the  younger  ones,  and  a  good 
sprinkling  of  the  infants. 

The  venerable  white-bearded  figure  near  the  center  is 
my  grandfather,  who  lived  on  another  twenty-odd  years 
into  the  nineties,  some  even  saying  a  hundred.  Neither  he 
nor  anyone  else  could  speak  with  certainty,  for  there  was 
no  official  record.  Nor  could  there  be,  in  his  case,  an  appeal 
to  the  personal  memories  which  served  for  my  parents' 
generation  in  the  absence  of  birth  certificates.  "Let  me 
see,"  one  would  say.  "I  was  brought  to  bed  with  Itzig  when 
Malkah  married.  I  remember  it,  so  may  God  grant  us  all 
long  and  prosperous  years,  like  yesterday,  because  I 
couldn't  go  to  the  wedding.  And  Leizer  was  born  exactly 
eleven  months  after  that;  and  if  you  want  an  absolutely 
infallible  sign,  Sarah  the  tinsmith's  wife,  may  she  rest  in 
peace  and  busy  herself  in  our  behalf" — it  used  to  trouble 
me  that  the  dead  were  supposed  to  rest  in  peace  and  never- 
theless run  about  among  the  influential  residents  of  Para- 
dise interceding  for  the  living — "came  to  me  right  after  the 



wedding  and  said — "  To  which  the  protocol  reply  would 
be:  "God  be  with  you,  Fanny,  you've  surely  taken  leave  of 
your  senses.  You're  confusing  Malkah's  marriage  with 
Mirel's,  and  for  an  absolutely  infallible  sign,  you  danced 
at  Malkah's  wedding,  and  Sarah  the  tinsmith's  wife,  may 
the  mention  of  her  name  bring  us  long  life,  was  there  and 
said  to  me:  'Look  at  her,  she's  in  the  high  months,  may  no 
harm  befall  her,  and  she  dances  like  a  young  girl.'  And  I 
even  told  you  at  the  time,  and  you  answered:  'Let  those 
that  begrudge  me  my  happiness  dance  not  at  weddings  but 
with  the  fever.'  Well,  am  I  right?"  Which  would  bring 
forth  laughter  and  amazement:  "/  danced  at  Malkah's 
wedding?  May  evil  spirits  dance  on  the  heads  of  the  ene- 
mies of  our  people."  So  it  would  go  on  amicably,  to  the 
enjoyment  and  edification  of  both  sides,  for  this  was  part 
of  the  culture,  the  clan's  oral  chronicles,  the  "begats,"  what 
Thomas  Mann  in  Joseph  and  His  Brothers  calls  "fine 
talk,"  until  the  matter  was  settled,  or  rather  dropped,  each 
side  brooding  and  looking  for  other  confirmatory  associa- 
tions to  be  cited  when  the  subject  came  up  again.  But  the 
limit  of  disagreement  would  usually  be  a  year  or  two, 
whereas  in  my  grandfather's  case  there  was  nothing  to  go 
on  but  rumors  diverging  by  decades.  To  me  he  was  of  such 
inhuman  antiquity  that  ten  years  either  way  made  no  dif- 

He  lived,  after  grandmother's  death,  with  Auntie  Chaya, 
and  was  treated  with  touching  respect  by  his  son-in-law 
Leibu,  or  Leon.  I  would  see  him  shuffling  about  the  house, 
or  down  the  street,  and  would  try  to  avoid  him  because  he 
never  failed  to  ask  me  whether  I  had  "davvened"  (said  my 
prayers)  that  morning.  It  was  a  rhetorical  question;  nobody 
in  our  circle,  himself  excepted,  used  to  say  the  long  morn- 
ing prayers,  and  he  knew  it.  I  used  to  think  that  he  only 
wanted  to  embarrass  me.  Actually  it  was  a  form  of  greeting. 



Sometimes  I  saw  him  in  Uncle  Leon's  warehouse  on 
Upper  Strangeways.  He  would  wander  among  the  crates 
picking  up  discarded  pieces  of  string  and  tying  them  to- 
gether until,  after  a  few  months,  he  had  a  ball  six  inches 
or  so  across.  As  he  went  about  this  occupation,  he  would 
hum  a  synagogue  melody,  as  if  to  sanctify  his  labors.  Now 
and  again  he  would  stand  still,  contemplating  a  piece  of 
string,  trying,  I  supposed,  to  make  up  his  mind  whether  it 
was  worth  saving.  Uncle  Leon  would  accept  the  completed 
ball  gravely,  saying:  "Father-in-law,  you  really  shouldn't 
put  yourself  out."  And  grandfather  would  answer:  "You 
never  can  tell  when  a  thing  will  come  in  useful."  He  spoke 
then  as  if  from  infinite  depths  of  practical  wisdom. 

He  tried  a  few  times  to  interest  me — and  no  doubt 
others  of  his  grandchildren — in  his  pious  exercises,  es- 
pecially after  Uncle  Leon  had  made  him  a  wonderful 
present  of  a  book  which  he  had  obtained  from  the  one-eyed 
bookseller.  It  was  a  very  fat  book  set  in  a  great  variety  of 
types,  here  and  there  twenty  lines  of  heavy,  quarter-inch 
letters  running  across  the  page,  and  underneath  them  two 
or  three  columns  in  eighth-  and  tenth-inch  type,  here  and 
there  boxed  inserts  so  tinily  printed  that  I  wondered  how 
grandfather  could  read  them  even  with  the  thick-lensed 
steel-rimmed  spectacles  which  he  balanced  delicately  on  the 
hump  of  his  bulbous  nose.  The  large  type  was  Hebrew,  the 
smaller  Yiddish;  and  grandfather  would  read  a  passage  in 
Hebrew,  then  a  passage  in  Yiddish  from  below.  He  did  not 
understand  Hebrew,  and  never  knew  whether  the  Yiddish 
was  a  translation  of  what  he  had  just  read  in  Hebrew;  it 
might  be  a  translation  of  an  adjacent  passage,  or  a  com- 
mentator's interpolation,  but  he  was  moved  by  the  sound 
of  the  Hebrew  not  less  than  by  the  meaning  of  the  Yiddish. 
He  read  everything  in  the  same  doleful  chant,  following 
the  text  with  a  bony,  hairy  finger,  and  interrupting  himself 
now  and  again  with:  "Gold!  Precious  as  gold!" 



A  few  years  ago  I  came  across  the  book  in  America,  and 
the  title  of  it  flashed  back  into  my  memory.  It  was  the 
Korban  Minchah  (The  Afternoon  Temple  Sacrifice),  a 
devotional  compilation  of  the  daily  and  some  of  the  festival 
prayers,  The  Ethics  of  the  Fathers,  The  Book  of  Esther, 
The  Song  of  Songs,  and  a  variety  of  selections  from  the 
Midrashim  and  the  later  Musar  (morality)  writers,  a  true 
folk  book  with  many  ingenious  as  well  as  homely  parables, 
with  stories  of  saintly  figures,  admonitions  against  worldli- 
ness,  warnings  of  hell  fire,  promises  of  heavenly  bliss.  The 
Yiddish  is  of  a  century  ago  in  style  and  spelling,  and  it 
carried  me  back  to  grandfather's  childhood,  and  set  me 
thinking  of  the  generations  that  had  fashioned  the  lan- 
guage to  their  purpose. 

He  once  gave  me,  without  knowing  it,  the  fright  of  my 
life.  I  was  passing  by  the  privy  in  Aunt  Chaya's  yard  (inside 
toilets  came  later  in  the  family  ascent,  toilets  in  the  bath- 
room still  later)  when  I  heard  his  voice  from  inside,  raised 
in  the  familiar  devotional  lament:  "Do  you  call  this  shi — 
ing?  This  isn't  shi — ing  at  all!  Merciful  God,  Lord  of  the 
Universe,  take  me  away  from  this  sinful  world."  It  sounded 
so  horrible  that  my  knees  almost  gave  way  under  me.  Un- 
derstanding only  the  Yiddish  words  but  not  the  condition 
they  referred  to,  I  thought  that  the  old  pietist  had  become 
insanely  blasphemous. 

He  was  the  old  man  of  the  tribe,  with  something  terrible 
about  him.  He  was  like  a  lump  of  eternity.  His  memory 
went  back  to  the  days  before  there  was  a  Rumanian  king- 
dom, before  there  was  a  Carol  on  the  throne,  and  at  family 
gatherings  he  would  smile  into  his  beard  when  the  others 
referred  to  themselves  as  "we  older  people."  He  was  not 
wholly  of  their  world,  for  he  had  been  born  in  the  Austrian 
city  of  Kolomea,  and  had  come  to  Rumania  as  a  young 
man.  He  had  therefore  undergone  two  uprootings  in  his 
life,  and  the  second  one,  which  took  place  when  he  was  in 



his  sixties,  found  him  exhausted  of  all  adaptability.  It 
could  be  said  of  him  that  he  really  didn't  know  where  he 

My  grandmother  is  in  the  photograph,  too.  She  died  in 
1904,  a  date  for  which  I  have  an  absolutely  infallible  sign. 
When  I  went  over  with  my  father  to  the  house  on  Mazeppa 
Street,  where  she  lay,  he  insisted  on  taking  along  the  Yid- 
dish newspaper.  The  Express,  and  when  I  pleaded  with 
him  to  leave  it  behind — I  could  not  have  explained  my 
distress — he  said,  sternly:  "What  do  you  mean?  It  says  here 
that  the  Japanese  are  smiting  the  Russians  hip  and  thigh; 
everybody  will  be  glad  to  hear  it."  For  a  moment  I  thought 
that  he  was  including  grandmother;  either  he  had  for- 
gotten that  she  was  dead  or  else  he  was  under  the  impres- 
sion that  the  dead  could  hear.  But  when  we  came  into  the 
room  he  shoved  the  newspaper  into  his  pocket  and  he 
made  no  mention  of  the  Japanese  victories. 

I  wept  for  my  grandmother.  She  was  a  loving  soul  in  a 
small,  shrunken  body.  At  times  she  would  produce  a  ha'- 
penny for  me,  and  if  I  had  already  made  my  weekly  con- 
tribution to  the  circulating  library  of  our  cheder,  I  would 
hasten  to  Saunder's  and  Wagstaffe's  toffee  shop  and  linger 
at  the  window  in  long,  delicious,  and  salivating  indecision. 
I  used  to  think  I  was  her  favorite  grandchild,  but  she  had 
more  than  a  dozen  little  grandchildren  and  each  one  had 
the  same  impression;  such  is  the  natural  effect  of  a  great 
capacity  for  love.  None  of  us  ever  got  ha'pennies  from 
grandfather,  and  only  once  did  he  give  expression  to  what 
might  pass  as  an  affectionate  interest  in  me.  That  was  on 
the  Sabbath  after  my  thirteenth  birthday,  my  bar  mitzvah, 
when  for  the  first  time,  and  in  token  of  my  entry  into  man- 
hood and  moral  responsibility,  I  was  called  up  in  the  syna- 
gogue to  the  reading  of  the  weekly  portion  of  the  Prophets. 
I  came  through  without  a  flaw,  chanting,  with  all  the  tradi- 



tional  trills  and  roulades,  the  opening  of  the  story  of 
Samson.  Flushed  with  pride  I  went  back  to  my  place  be- 
tween my  father  and  grandfather,  and  grandfather  leaned 
over  and  implanted  a  loud  public  kiss  on  my  forehead.  It 
rang  through  the  synagogue  and  made  a  tremendous  im- 
pression on  me;  it  was  as  if  a  cannon  had  been  fired  in  my 

Grandmother's  was  the  second  family  death  I  witnessed, 
the  first  having  been  that  of  my  shadowy  little  sister  Bessie 
in  Rumania.  At  the  age  of  five  or  six  I  had  gone  through 
the  common  childhood  preoccupation  with  death,  my  own 
and  that  of  others,  and  was  reminded  poignantly  of  it  when 
my  first  granddaughter,  at  the  same  age,  snuggled  close  to 
me  and  whispered:  "You're  not  so  old.  Grandpa  Moish; 
you  won't  die  yet  for  a  long  time."  But  at  nine  I  had  for- 
gotten my  early  terrors,  and  the  transformation  of  my 
grandmother  into  an  image  which  was  laid  in  a  box  and 
carried  out  of  the  house  amid  hand-wringing  and  loud 
sobbing  was  a  totally  new,  totally  unexpected,  and  ghastly 
event,  bewildering  and  shattering  in  its  effect. 

How  could  such  a  frightful  thing  happen?  What  was  the 
matter  with  the  grown-ups,  the  bosses  of  the  world,  that 
they  should  let  themselves  be  pushed  around  in  this  incom- 
prehensible fashion,  not  lifting  a  finger,  but  rather  joining 
with  abandon  in  the  monstrous  procedure?  There  was  so 
much  frightening  play-acting,  too:  the  bucket  of  water 
at  the  outside  door  into  which  you  had  to  dip  your  fingers 
entering  and  leaving,  the  mirrors  and  pictures  turned  to 
the  wall,  the  entering  and  leaving  without  salutation,  the 
sitting  in  stockinged  feet  on  low  stools,  the  tearing  of  the 
lapel  of  your  coat.  I  wept  for  my  grandmother  and  felt  I 
was  part  of  a  conspiracy;  I  wished  I  could  thrust  into  her 
hand  all  the  ha'pennies  she  had  ever  given  me;  she  might 
need  them  where  she  was  being  taken. 



Other  ha'pennies  came  from  Auntie  Chaya,  and  some- 
times farthings.  In  my  childhood  the  farthing  had  status. 
You  could  get  for  it  an  indestructible  piece  of  toffee,  or  a 
"kali-sucker,"  a  paper  bag  with  a  hollow  straw  stuck  into 
a  quantity  of  sickly-sweet  white  powder.  You  could  also  get 
at  the  chemist's  shop  a  stupefying  scientific  device,  a  small 
sheet  of  rice  paper  perfectly  blank  but  for  an  asterisk  in 
the  top  left-hand  corner  and  a  printed  motto  on  top:  THE 
You  folded  the  sheet  at  the  edges,  stood  it  up  like  a  minia- 
ture table,  and  applied  a  glowing  match  tip  to  the  asterisk. 
Then  wondrous  things  came  to  pass.  Thin  trails  of  red  fire 
started  out  from  the  asterisk,  ran  complicated  courses  which 
never  crossed,  and  having  become  extinguished  left  behind 
a  burned-out  profile  of  Queen  Victoria,  or  King  Edward 
VII,  or  Buffalo  Bill.  We  used  to  debate  whether  the  aster- 
isk was  committed  in  advance  to  a  particular  portrait,  and 
it  is  a  matter  for  regret  that  I  cannot  recall  which  side  I 
took,  though  I  do  recall  the  gist  and  tone  of  the  argu- 
ments. To  some  it  seemed  unlikely  that  such  ingenuity 
should  be  dissociated  from  free  will  and  intelligence; 
against  that  was  the  patent  fact  that  there  were  only  three 
designs.  The  metaphysicists  among  us  opined  that  even 
this  limited  choice  constituted  free  will;  the  materialists 
answered,  with  precocious  scientific  acrimony:  "You  don't 
know  what  the  bleddy  hell  you're  talking  about;  it  depends 
where  you  touch  the  star." 

Auntie  Chaya  was  fat,  motherly,  and  jolly.  Her  children 
were  too  young  to  be  my  playmates,  but  I  liked  her  house 
and  used  to  hang  about  it,  though  only  in  part  for  the 
ha'pennies  and  farthings  and  tidbits.  Before  Uncle  Leon 
rented  his  warehouse  on  Upper  Strangeways,  he  kept  part 
of  his  stock  at  home,  and  I  was  fascinated  by  the  endless 
variety:   brooms,  chamber  pots,   toilet  paper,  hasps  and 



Staples,  hand  mirrors,  writing  paper,  mufflers  (scarves), 
loofahs,  toothbrushes,  shoelaces,  shoepolish,  pots  and  pans, 
locks  and  keys,  spectacle  frames,  dustcloths,  caps,  slippers, 
cups,  saucers,  gas  mantles,  all  in  a  bewildering  jumble. 
The  multitudinousness  of  objects  gave  me  the  impression 
that  Uncle  Leon  was  enormously  rich.  I  longed  to  grow  up 
and  be  like  him,  the  possessor  of  countless  things,  and  it 
surprised  me  that  Auntie  Chaya  seemed  to  take  no  interest 
in  the  marvels  of  the  two  stockrooms. 

She  was  an  avid  listener  at  my  father's  readings,  and  the 
only  one  who  ever  interceded  for  me  at  the  dread  moment 
of  dismissal,  though  to  no  effect.  I  would  try  to  sit  next  to 
her  on  the  sofa,  out  of  my  father's  line  of  sight,  and  shielded 
by  her  bulk,  which  I  assumed  she  had  accumulated  for 
my  special  protection.  The  warmth  of  my  childhood  mem- 
ory of  her  must  have  had  something  of  the  physical  in  it, 
she  was  such  a  cosy,  reassuring  bulwark.  If  only  she  hadn't 
started  so  violently  at  some  tragic  turn  in  the  story,  or 
laughed  with  such  head-to-foot  heartiness  at  the  comic 
passages,  breaking  like  a  seismic  disturbance  into  the  web 
I  was  spinning  for  myself! 

Uncle  Leon  was  lean,  prematurely  bald,  nervous,  talka- 
tive, and  clever,  given  to  sarcastic  clowning  and  spasms  of 
intellectual  curiosity  different  from  Uncle  Berel's  in  that 
they  were  more  penetrating  but  also  more  self-conscious 
and  exhibitionistic.  The  first  of  our  clan  and  the  only  one 
of  his  generation  to  become  well-to-do,  he  was  generous 
even  in  comparative  poverty.  He  "went  on  markets,"  that 
is,  he  had  stalls,  miniature  Woolworths,  which  he  opened 
in  a  number  of  surrounding  towns  on  market  nights. 
There  he  sold  the  contents  of  his  stockrooms.  It  was  cruel 
work,  as  hard  on  the  mind  as  on  the  body.  It  called  for  the 
memory  of  a  Macaulay  and  the  stamina  of  a  Peary.  After  a 
busy  evening  which  lasted  until  after  eleven,  one  was  too 



exhausted  to  write  down  the  needed  replacements;  besides, 
there  was  the  repacking  and  recrating  to  do.  One  simply 
had  to  remember,  whether  in  Oldham,  or  Wigan,  or 
Altringham,  or  Macclesfield,  what  to  ship  in  for  the  next 

Two  circumstances  added  to  the  burdens  of  this  occupa- 
tion: a  certain  amount  of  thievishness  among  the  custom- 
ers, and  the  uncertainty  of  the  Lancashire  weather.  There 
would  be  four  or  five  salesmen  inside  the  stall,  which  was 
in  the  form  of  a  hollow  square.  When  one  of  them  spotted 
marauding  hands  near  another  salesman's  pitch,  he  would 
shout  in  Yiddish:  "Mick,  tzvei-tzen — two-ten,"  meaning, 
"Two  eyes  to  watch  ten  fingers."  But  there  was  no  guard- 
ing against  the  weather.  A  sudden  squall  would  empty  the 
market  place,  and  once  the  crowd  had  dispersed  it  never 
reassembled;  and  if  the  squall  developed  into  a  good  old 
Lancashire  storm  the  repacking  would  have  to  be  done 
while  gusts  of  wind  tore  at  stanchions  and  canvass,  and 
sheets  of  rain  passed  and  repassed  over  the  exposed  wares. 
From  such  profitless  evenings  Uncle  Leon  would  return 
home,  sopping  wet  and  bedraggled,  close  to  collapse.  No 
wonder  he  used  to  complain  that  he  went  not  on  markets, 
but  on  makkes,  calamities  and  curses. 

In  my  high-school  days  I  used  to  turn  an  occasional  shil- 
ling by  going  along  to  help.  The  towns  I  have  mentioned 
were  also  those  I  used  to  visit  as  a  socialist  agitator,  so  that  I 
appeared  in  them  in  two  capacities;  from  soapboxes  I 
exposed  the  evils  of  the  profit  system  and  from  behind  my 
uncle's  stalls  gave  practical  demonstrations  of  it. 

Some  time  before  I  entered  college  Uncle  Leon  sold  the 
stalls  and  became  a  wholesale  supplier  to  the  poor  devils 
who  bought  them.  He  engaged  me  one  Sunday  every  month 
for  stock-taking  and  what  he  called  bookkeeping.  Before 
my  first  day  of  employment  I  hurriedly  consulted  a  friend 



who  was  attending  commercial  school  and  reported  back 
to  Uncle  Leon  that  I  would  need  a  journal,  a  ledger,  and 
sundry  other  records.  I  had  improvised,  with  much  labor 
and  to  my  own  admiration,  a  system  for  entering  debits  and 
credits  and  drawing  up  balance  sheets,  and  I  began  to 
explain  it.  Uncle  Leon  listened  for  a  minute  or  two  with 
a  faraway  and  slightly  compassionate  expression,  then 
drawled  in  that  peculiarly  sarcastic  way  of  his  that  used 
to  get  under  my  skin:  What  debits?  What  crebits?  What 
do  you  think  I  am?  A  Lewis's  shop,  a  Baxendale?"  He  was 
referring  to  prominent  Manchester  firms.  "Here!"  He 
handed  me  a  penny  notebook.  "Write  down  what  I  say. 
Wachtell  owes  me  four  pounds  eight  shillings  for  the  last 
two  months.  I  can  get  loofahs  cheaper  from  Feitelson's. 
Jacobson  says  I'm  a  swindler  because  the  rent  is  going  up 
on  the  Altringham  stall  I  sold  him  and  I  promised  him  it 
wouldn't.  He's  a  liar;  I  didn't  make  any  promises  and  the 
rent  isn't  going  up.  He's  trying  to  squeeze  me  for  better 
prices,  but  it'll  help  him  as  much  as  leeches  help  a  corpse. 
There's  no  money  in  my  chamber  pots;  I've  got  too  many 
and  they  take  up  room.  Wherever  I  turn  I  stumble  over 
chamber  pots.  I'll  offer  them  for  three  shillings  less  on  the 
dozen.  Why  aren't  you  writing?" 

"What  shall  I  write?"  I  asked.  "That  wherever  you  turn 
you  stumble  over  chamber  pots?  And  where  do  you  want  me 
to  write  it?" 

"There!  Right  there!"  pointing  to  the  notebook. 

"On  the  same  page  as  Feitelson  and  the  loofahs  and 
Jacobson  is  a  liar?" 

"Certainly.  Do  you  want  a  separate  book  for  each  of 

The  preparations  with  which  I  had  thought  to  impress 
him  were  going  for  nought,  and  with  them  the  value  I  had 
set  on  my  services. 



"What  kind  of  system  is  this?"  I  asked. 

"Who  needs  a  system?  I  have  everything  in  my  head." 

"Then  what  are  you  writing  it  down  for?" 

He  meditated  a  while,  and  said  softly,  in  Yiddish:  "In 
case  I  close  an  eye,"  meaning  in  case  he  died. 

There  was  only  one  proper  answer  to  such  a  remark, 
namely:  "Bite  your  tongue  off."  Exasperated,  I  forgot 
tradition  and  my  manners  and  said:  "But  nobody  will  un- 
derstand this  rubbish." 

"So  they  won't  understand.  What  difference  will  that 
make  to  me  when  I'm  nine  ells  underground?" 

He  didn't  want  a  bookkeeping  system.  He  needed,  for 
the  conduct  of  his  business,  only  the  bills  and  receipts  he 
kept  skewered  in  his  roll-top  desk;  for  the  rest  he  relied 
on  his  memory.  He  never  had  me  read  back  to  him  what 
was  written  in  the  notebook;  nor  did  he  ever  look  at  the 
long  stock  lists  we  compiled;  he  dictated  only  by  way  of  re- 
hearsal. His  memory,  while  still  phenomenal,  was  not 
quite  as  good  as  in  the  market  days,  but  just  to  watch  me 
write  was  all  the  help  he  needed. 

I  would  bill  him  regularly  ten  shillings  for  the  day's  work 
and  settle  as  regularly  for  half  a  crown  (two  and  a  half 
shillings).  I  argued  that  I  was  being  paid  at  something  like 
fourpence  an  hour,  which  was  wage  slavery.  He  was  not 
to  be  budged.  He  was  as  hard  in  business  as  he  was  generous 
outside  of  it,  and  if  I  had  asked  him  for  ten  shillings  as 
a  gift,  or  even  a  whole  pound,  he  would  have  given  it  to 
me.  He  once  explained:  "If  you're  kind  in  business  you 
won't  be  in  it  for  long  and  then  you'll  have  nothing  to  be 
kind  with.  Besides,  the  man  who's  kind  in  business  is 
ashamed  of  it  and  is  called  a  fool,  whereas  if  he's  kind  out 
of  business  he  lets  everybody  know  he's  a  feiner  mentsch — 
a  gentleman."  This  last  was  an  unjustified  sneer  at  him- 
self, for  he  was  an  unostentatious  giver.  He  supported  my 



grandparents,  he  was  always  helping  relatives — a  half- 
crazy  sister  in  Paris,  a  brother  in  Smyrna,  and  a  cantank- 
erous old  mother,  Charney,  who  was  with  us  for  a  while — 
she  is  in  the  group  photograph,  a  massive,  square-jawed 
matriarch.  There  was  a  rumor  that  she  had  once  kept  a 
whorehouse  in  Constantinople. 

Later  Uncle  Leon  left  the  hardware  trade  and  turned 
to  moneylending,  operating  on  the  same  principles — 
ruthlessness  in  business,  generosity  outside  of  it.  He  was 
the  only  one  of  the  older  generation  who  was  not  horrified 
by  my  socialist  activities.  He  had  a  social  philosophy  which 
was  nearer  to  anarchism  than  socialism.  Human  beings, 
he  thought,  were  fundamentally  good;  their  natural  im- 
pulse was  to  live  together  in  harmony  without  the  inter- 
ference of  laws  and  governments;  but  something  had  gone 
wrong  somewhere,  and  instead  of  harmony  there  was  uni- 
versal discord  and  hatred.  "Vi  vilde  chayes — like  wild 
beasts!"  When  he  talked  like  that  you  would  have  taken 
him  for  a  sentimentalist  and  a  softy;  actually,  he  was 
shrewd  and  realistic,  with  a  sharp  insight  into  human 
weaknesses  and  no  little  capacity  for  exploiting  them  in 

I  was  sometimes  present  when  he  was  making  a  sale, 
and  I  would  be  spellbound  by  the  performance.  There  was 
something  of  the  actor  and  much  of  the  Levantine  in  him. 
His  tongue  ran  on  so,  and  he  put  up  such  a  show  of  eager- 
ness and  confusion  that  the  buyer  lost  his  bearings.  His 
favorite  phrase  was:  "I'll  tell  you  what  I'll  do  with  you!" 
— uttered  in  the  tone  of  a  man  who  was  sick  and  tired  of 
bargaining  and  was  resolved  to  get  out  of  a  nasty  situation 
at  a  ruinous  loss.  "I'll  throw  in  a  gross  of  toothbrushes  at 
half  price  and  the  black  year  take  it — to  hell  with  it!  And  if 
you're  not  satisfied  I'll  give  you  two  months'  credit  and 
the  cash  discount."  Then  he  would  smite  himself  on  the 



forehead  with  his  open  palm:  "Sha!  Wait!  As  Queen 
Esther  said,  if  I'm  done  for,  I'm  done  for.  I'll  tell  you 
what  I'll  do  with  you!  I've  just  received  a  shipment  of 
combs,  beauties,  here,  take  a  look.  I  ordered  them  for — 
well,  never  mind  who,  why  should  you  have  it  on  your 
conscience?  Put  them  on  your  stall  and  they'll  go  like  hot 
cakes,  one- two-three!  Aha?  You  pretend  you  don't  like 
them  but  there's  a  glint  in  your  eye.  Good!  Put  them  on 
one  side,  and  take  a  look  at  this  job  lot  of  shaving  mugs,  I 
got  them  cheap  and  you  can  have  them  for  nothing!  For 
nothing!  And  I'll  tell  you  what  else  I'll  do  with  you — " 

He  offered  concessions,  combinations,  reductions,  bo- 
nuses, with  machine-gun  rapidity,  and  the  remarkable 
thing  was  that  he  never  overreached  himself;  more  re- 
markably still,  he  never  really  put  anything  over  on  a 
buyer.  "I  wouldn't  do  that.  I'd  lose  the  man.  But  I  know 
the  business  a  thousand  times  better  than  he  does.  Only 
I  want  him  to  think  that  he's  swindled  me.  He  goes  away 
laughing  to  himself  and  considers  himself  a  genius.  And 
take  my  word  for  it — everything  I  give  him  he'll  sell  at 
a  decent  profit.  So  everybody's  happy." 

Since  he  was  a  moralist  outside  business  hours,  I  made 
the  point  that  he  was  corrupting  his  customers,  encourag- 
ing them  in  the  belief  that  they  were  successful  swindlers. 
"Ot  hosste  dir  gehot!"  he  answered.  "There  you  go!  Am 
I  Moses  our  Teacher?  Am  I  saving  souls  or  am  I  selling 
hardware?  Isn't  it  enough  that  I'm  honest?  And  if  you 
want  to  go  into  the  little  letters" — he  was  referring  to  the 
marginal  commentaries  in  the  Talmud,  about  which  every 
Jew  knows  without  having  looked  into  a  volume  of  the 
Talmud — "if  you  want  to  go  into  the  little  letters,  isn't 
all  business  a  swindle?  You  yourself,  Mr.  Socialist,  say 
so;  and  the  bigger  the  business,  the  bigger  the  swindle." 

As  Uncle  Berel  would  have  made  a  good  novelist,  so,  I 



think  Uncle  Leon  would  have  made  a  good  Talmudist. 
He  was  more  than  a  rapid  reasoner;  he  saw  into  the  es- 
sence of  human  situations  and  often  expressed  himself  with 
aphoristic  neatness.  He  once  said:  "If  a  friend  does  you 
a  favor  and  reminds  you  of  it,  he  cancels  it.  For  he  was 
making  an  investment,  not  doing  you  a  kindness."  Then 
again:  "Favors  aren't  business  transactions.  If  a  man  does 
you  a  favor  and  you  can't  return  it,  return  it  to  someone 
else  who  never  did  you  a  favor.  Kindnesses  should  circu- 
late, not  go  back  and  forth  between  two  persons."  On  one 
occasion  a  member  of  our  clan  spent  much  more  than  he 
could  afford  on  an  only  daughter's  wedding.  Uncle  Leon 
was  highly  critical,  and  when  someone  pleaded:  "Look, 
after  all  a  thing  like  that  happens  once  in  a  lifetime," 
he  answered:  "Narrishkeit — fool-talk.  Every  Monday  and 
Thursday  a  once-in-a-lifetime  thing  is  happening — a  wed- 
ding, a  funeral,  a  bar-mitzvah,  a  circumcision,  a  reunion 
with  a  long-lost  relative,  this,  that,  the  other.  From  once- 
in-a-lifetimes  you're  left  with  nothing  to  live  on." 

Uncle  Leon  had  an  older  sister,  Mallie,  who  was  mar- 
ried to  my  mother's  brother,  Moritz.  Among  my  older 
relatives  I  knew  Auntie  Mallie  best  because  one  of  her 
sons,  Mick,  was  for  a  long  time  my  best  pal.  She  was 
slightly  subnormal  and  I  disliked  her  for  a  reason  which 
did  not  become  clear  to  me  until  long  after  she  was  dead: 
she  had  the  cunning  of  the  mentally  retarded  against 
which  the  normal  person  is  defenseless.  Her  stupidity  was 
too  quick-witted  for  us.  One  couldn't  get  through  to  her, 
for  she  was  impenetrably  armored  against  self-perception, 
and  the  notion  that  she  had  done  wrong  was  as  remote 
from  her  mode  of  thought  as  quantum  mechanics. 

If  one  of  her  children  asked  for  something  she  didn't 
want  to  give,  she  never  refused  it  outright;  instead,  she 
would  say,  soothingly:  "Hush  now,  hush,  you  really  don't 



want  that."  In  our  life  a  refusal  was  a  straightforward 
thing,  routine;  you  knew  you  couldn't  always  get  what 
you  wanted;  you  protested,  and  made  your  peace  with  the 
refusal.  But  this  bland  disfranchisement,  this  shooing 
you  out  of  the  right  to  want,  was  maddening.  You  didn't 
know  where  to  take  hold  of  it.  You  could  cry,  and  keep  on 
repeating:  "Yes,  I  do  want  it,"  but  before  long  you  found 
yourself  wanting  not  the  particular  thing  but  your  right 
to  want  it — which  she  would  not  concede — while  the  thing 
itself  had  lost  all  interest  for  you,  so  that  Auntie  Mallie 
was  right  after  all!  It  was  an  indefinable,  unidentifiable, 
and  intolerable  species  of  torture  which  Auntie  Mallie 
had  invented  and  patented.  It  was  also  a  double  injustice, 
for  it  robbed  you  of  the  residuary  equity  of  an  honest 
refusal;  after  all,  a  certain  number  of  refusals  built  up  a 
claim  of  sorts,  entitled  you  finally  to  some  consideration. 
This  was  the  humane  and  natural  law  between  children 
and  grown-ups,  but  Auntie  Mallie  stood  outside  it.  What 
could  you  claim  for  having  ten  times  not  been  given  what 
you  hadn't  wanted  in  the  first  place?  It  was  as  if  you  were 
being  accused  of  trying  to  pile  up  counterfeit  credits. 

Another  trick  of  hers  in  the  same  spirit  was  to  ask  for 
a  favor  as  if  collecting  a  debt.  I  say  "trick"  but  I  am  sure 
she  wasn't  aware  of  it  as  such.  She  would  say:  "It's  a  long 
time  since  you  went  an  errand  for  me,  so  won't  you  .  .  ." 
A  long  time  might  not  have  passed  since  you  had  done 
something  for  her.  How  could  you  remember?  You  didn't 
keep  a  notebook  of  services  rendered.  You  were  quite 
helpless;  she  spoke  amiably,  with  such  tacit  conviction, 
that  even  if  you  happened  to  remember  a  recent  service 
it  would  have  been  graceless — as  well  as  futile — to  bring 
it  up. 

She  had  a  wonderful  way  of  putting  people  in  the  wrong 
beforehand  whenever  she  anticipated  criticism.  She  would 



say,  placidly:  "Now  listen  to  what  I'll  tell  you,  and  don't 
lose  your  temper,  don't  start  screaming  at  me."  This  de- 
vice was  familiar  to  everyone  who  knew  her,  yet  it  was 
invariably  successful.  Either  one  was  immediately  stung 
into  replying,  angrily:  "I'm  not  going  to  lose  my  temper, 
and  I'm  not  going  to  scream  at  you,"  whereupon  she 
would  sigh  patiently:  "See,  I  told  you,"  or  else  one  would 
exercise  great  self-control  and  reply:  "Yes,  go  on,"  think- 
ing— in  spite  of  all  past  experience — to  frustrate  her;  but 
no,  she  sensed  the  suppressed  irritation  as  a  dog  is  said 
to  sense  the  released  adrenalin  in  a  frightened  person, 
and  she  would  insist,  gently,  skeptically:  "But  I  know 
you're  going  to  scream  at  me,"  and  of  course  one  finally 

With  all  this  she  was  by  no  means  unkind,  she  only 
wanted  her  kindnesses  to  have  the  character  of  free,  spon- 
taneous, and  unmerited  offerings  without  the  taint  of  a 
quid  pro  quo.  If  she  gave  you  an  apple  or  a  pear  or  a  piece 
of  cake  she  made  you  eat  it  in  her  presence,  while  she 
nodded  approvingly  and  purred:  "Good,  isn't  it?"  She 
needed  praise  in  large  quantities  and  made  a  play  for  it 
under  the  most  unfavorable  circumstances.  If  someone 
complained  that  the  soup  was  cold  she  would  answer 
proudly:  "That  doesn't  happen  often  with  me,  does  it?" 
She  turned  every  lapse  into  an  opportunity,  which  nobody 
else  ever  seized,  for  the  celebration  of  her  virtues;  one 
could  feel  her  pressing  for  good  words,  and  it  made  one 

Children  are  more  sensitive  than  grown-ups  to  such 
maneuvers  of  the  ego.  They  have  only  just  and  barely 
come  to  terms  with  the  over-all  accepted  system  of  ameni- 
ties, conventions,  and  shams;  they  react  quickly  and  re- 
sentfully to  unscheduled  demands  on  their  powers  of 
pretence.  I  disliked  Auntie  Mallie  because,  as  we  would 



now  say,  she  crowded  me.  I  could  not  have  explained  the 
relationship,  I  could  not  have  given  an  acceptable  reason 
for  disliking  her;  thus  I  seemed  to  dislike  her  without 
cause,  which  put  me  in  the  wrong  and  therefore  made  me 
dislike  her  the  more. 

Her  husband,  Uncle  Moritz,  my  mother's  brother,  kept 
a  haberdashery,  and  the  family  lived  in  rooms  behind  and 
above  it.  There  were  many  children,  and  an  infant  or  two 
would  usually  be  rolling  about,  half-naked,  on  the  shop 
floor,  sometimes  befouling  it.  The  business  did  not  suffer 
as  a  consequence;  it  may  even  have  benefited.  The  cus- 
tomers, nearly  all  from  the  Salford  slums,  were  not  finicky; 
they  may  have  felt  that  such  dirt  and  disorder  meant  lower 
prices,  and  the  place  did  in  fact  suggest  the  last  stages  of 
a  bankruptcy  sale.  It  is  not  impossible  that  Uncle  Moritz 
counted  on  the  effect. 

To  me  he  was  a  sly  and  secretive  creature.  Indoors  he 
always  wore  slippers,  even  when  serving  in  the  shop,  and 
he  moved  quietly  through  the  hullabaloo  of  his  surround- 
ings. He  sported,  incongruously,  a  small  and  distinguished 
beard  which  curved  away  right  and  left  from  the  cleft  in 
his  chin — on  the  photograph  he  puts  one  in  mind  of 
Charles  Evan  Hughes  or  C.  P.  Scott  of  The  Manchester 
Guardian.  I  was  intrigued  by  his  beard  and  disconcerted 
by  his  noiseless  appearances  and  disappearances,  and  by 
his  occasional,  brief  spasms  of  speechless  rage,  I  had  the 
impression  that  he  hated  his  wife,  and  I  had  some  difficulty 
in  reconciling  this  with  their  fruitfulness.  I  have  since 
come  round  to  the  view  that  he  loved  Auntie  Mallie  but 
could  not  stand  the  disorder  and  dirt  in  the  midst  of  which 
he  lived,  even  though  they  may  have  been  useful  to  his 
business.  But  if  he  did  hate  her  she  certainly  would  not 
have  known  it;  she  lived  out  her  cheerful  life  more  or  less 
incommunicado.  In  company,  and  particularly  when  the 


talk  turned  to  "high  matters,"  Uncle  Moritz  livened  up; 
the  higher  they  were,  the  more  remote  from  everyday 
reality,  the  livelier  he  became.  He  had  a  peculiar  fixation 
on  somebody  he  called  "Alexander  Mukden,"  whom  he 
considered  the  greatest  non-Jew  who  had  ever  lived,  even 
greater  than  Napoleon.  It  was  a  long  time  before  I  realized 
that  he  meant  Alexander  the  Great  (Mukden — Makedon 
— Macedonia).  I  surmise  that  he  yoked  him  with  Napo- 
leon because  both  had  left  some  mark  in  Jewish  history; 
Napoleon  had  convened  a  Sanhedrin  and  Alexander  the 
Great  had  received  with  friendliness  a  deputation  of  High 

Having  much  to  do  with  gentiles.  Uncle  Moritz  acquired 
a  working  knowledge  of  English;  so,  for  the  same  reason, 
did  Uncle  Leon,  who,  being  the  youngest  of  his  generation, 
in  time  became  comparatively  Anglicized,  turned  from 
the  Yiddish  to  the  English  press,  and  even  lived  to  see 
virtue  in  bookkeeping.  They  were  exceptions;  the  large 
majority  of  the  clan,  dealing  mostly  among  themselves, 
remained  to  the  end  strangers  to  the  language  and  ways 
of  their  tolerant  host  country. 

My  uncles  Berel  and  Srul  (Israel),  with  their  wives 
Malkah  and  Rosa,  vanished  early  from  my  childhood.  I 
found  them  in  America  in  1914,  but  Auntie  Malkah  died 
soon  after  my  arrival;  if  she  had  lived  I  would  probably 
never  have  got  to  know  Uncle  Berel  as  well  as  I  did.  Uncle 
Srul,  too,  kept  a  cleaning  and  pressing  store.  He  was  spec- 
tacularly handsome  but  so  vain,  and  so  dull,  that  after 
half  an  hour  with  him  I  would  be  sweating  with  despera- 
tion. Auntie  Rosa  was  very  fat,  a  famous  cook,  and  a  com- 
pulsive eater;  the  poor  woman  grew  and  grew  until  she 
weighed  over  four  hundred  pounds  and  one  was  embar- 
rassed to  look  at  her.  But  she  outlived  all  her  contempo- 
raries and  died  in  her  middle  eighties.  The  frequency  of 



my  visits  to  Uncle  Berel  was  kept  secret  from  her  and 
Uncle  Srul,  and  I  do  not  remember  ever  seeing  Uncle 
Srul  at  Uncle  Berel's  Rumanian  restaurant. 

Dozens  and  scores  of  the  members  of  the  vanished  Ru- 
manian Jewish  ghetto  of  Manchester  maintain  a  ghostly 
clamor  for  admission  to  this  record:  Fish  the  fishmonger 
and  Fish  the  fruit  dealer  and  a  third  Fish,  the  "hoarse 
chicken-slaughterer,"  a  pietist  who  had  all  the  qualifica- 
tions of  a  cantor  except  a  voice;  Aaron  the  shoemaker, 
who  at  one  time  worked  for  my  father  and  created  a 
scandal  by  opening  a  shoe-repair  shop  of  his  own  round 
the  corner;  Mendel  the  milkman,  who  woke  me  every 
morning  by  shouting  up  and  down  the  street;  Kupperman 
the  fruitdealer,  who  was  pitied  because  he  had  insured 
his  mother-in-law — a  bundle  of  skin  and  bones — and  she 
clung  to  life  with  unnatural  tenacity,  to  weep,  in  the  end, 
at  his  funeral.  Mingled  with  these  are  some  outsiders, 
Litvak  or  Galician  or  English-bom  Jews  who  endured  a 
minor  exile  in  our  midst:  Mooslin  the  watchmaker,  a 
cripple  whose  twisted  walk  I  was  adept  at  imitating;  Matz 
the  pharmacist,  who  had  a  long  nose  and  funneled  his 
talk  through  it;  Jenkins  the  tailor  and  Goodman  the 
photographer  and  Davis  the  carpenter  and  Solomon  the 
fiddler,  whose  sons  were  also  fiddlers  ...  I  must  turn  them 
back;  I  must  be  practical,  like  the  director  of  an  immi- 
grant-aid society:  "Don't  push;  if  you  all  try  to  get  in  at 
once,  none  of  you  will  get  in.  Later,  later."  They  eye  me 
skeptically:  "Look  at  him,  dressed  in  a  little  brief  autho- 
rity. Quotas,  eh?  And  favorites.  Relatives  first,  naturally. 
We  know  all  about  it." 


Jf^     r^i       iJfTt 




JL  N  THE  MASS  I  welcoiTie  them  all  into  the  record,  rela- 
tives near  and  remote,  friends  of  the  family  and  acquaint- 
ances, as  the  representatives  of  the  Jewish  people  through- 
out a  hundred  generations,  not  the  scholars  and  saints  and 
teachers,  but  amcho  (Thy  people),  the  plebs.  They  knew 
themselves  to  be  untutored,  and  were  humble  about  it. 
Their  reverence  for  learning  had  not  its  like  among  the 
gentiles,  even  of  the  upper  class;  it  had  a  fierce  and  en- 
during quality,  and  its  frustration  by  poverty  was  their 
greatest  spiritual  affliction.  I  cannot  remember  a  single 
instance  of  sneering  at  book  knowledge,  such  as  I  later 
came  across  among  some  Jews,  and  of  course  non-Jews 
too.  Granted,  there  was  no  one  in  our  little  community 
rich  enough  to  flaunt  his  worldly  success  in  the  face  of 
an  indigent  scholar — if  there  had  been  an  indigent  scholar 
in  our  clan.  But  your  true  grabber  ying  (coarse  boor)  is 
contemptuous  of  learning  even  when  he  is  himself  no  shin- 
ing example  of  the  advantages  of  ignorance.  To  him  ig- 
norance is  a  positive  quality  in  its  own  right.  "I'm  a  plain, 
practical  man,  and  I  don't  hold  with  that  fancy  college 
stuff."  Quite  foreign  to  the  outlook  of  my  people  would 
have  been  the  word  "egghead,"  which,  though  not  coined 
by  the  poor  and  illiterate,  has  great  currency  among  them. 


Their  life  philosophy  found  partial  expression  in  their 
attitude  toward  the  world  about  them.  They  loved  Eng- 
land, and  in  many  ways  admired  her  immoderately.  The 
wealth  of  England  fired  their  imagination;  the  rest  of  the 
world  could  subsist  on  her  leavings;  the  Roman  Empire 
had  been  a  beggarly  thing  by  comparison.  My  uncle  Mo- 
ritz  said:  "If  I  had  a  hundredth  part  of  the  paper  that  is 
thrown  out  daily  in  this  country,  I  would  be  richer  than 
Rothschild."  Then,  starting  back  from  his  own  temerity: 
"What  am  I  saying?  If  I  had  the  string  for  the  bundles  of 

Next  to  England  they  ranked  Germany,  partly  for  her 
language,  which  they  regarded  as  an  aristocratic  Yiddish, 
respected  but  also  parodied  by  them.  Anyone  who  aspired 
to  the  reputation  of  a  worldly  intellectual  was  disqualified 
if  he  could  not  speak  a  little  German,  or  what  passed  for 
German  with  them. 

More  than  England's  wealth  they  admired  English  jus- 
tice. They  invoked  for  England  the  Rabbinic  saying  that 
the  just  among  the  gentiles  have  their  place  in  Paradise. 
They  connected  England's  greatness  with  her  generosity 
toward  the  Jews,  but  not  as  cause  and  effect.  They  cited 
Cyrus  of  Persia,  whom  God  had  called  "My  anointed";  Cy- 
rus became  great,  then  he  encouraged  the  Jews  to  rebuild 
their  homeland  after  the  First  Destruction.  However, 
they  could  also  argue  that  God  had  made  him  great  for 
that  purpose;  and  it  was  an  article  of  faith  with  them  that 
the  fate  of  Pharaoh  and  Haman  (and  the  Roman  Empire) 
awaited  the  rulers  of  Russia  and  Rumania. 

But  their  high  regard  for  England  had  its  reservations. 
They  compared  their  own  way  of  life  with  that  of  their 
neighbors  in  the  adjacent  Salford  slums  and  knew  it  to  be 
immeasurably  superior.  There  was  no  drunkenness  in  our 
community,  no  animalism,  no  wife-beating,  no  recourse 



to  violence.  These  defects  were  despised  as  specifically 
goyish.  My  people  did  not  suppose  that  all  poor  gentiles 
were  like  that;  the  Saunders  and  Wagstaffe  ladies  of  the 
toffee  shop,  and  Mr.  Maude,  the  leather  merchant,  were 
obviously  decent  people,  though  they  and  we  and  our 
Salford  neighbors  were  more  or  less  on  the  same  economic 
level.  But  the  gentiles  in  our  midst  were  few,  and  those 
that  wandered  into  our  area  on  Saturday  nights  were 
mostly  drunks  and  hoodlums,  men  and  women  loud  of 
voice  and  free  with  their  fists.  At  other  times  the  grotes- 
quely poor  came  our  way:  indescribably  ragged,  unwashed 
men  who  in  the  summer  sold  paper  flycatchers  to  the  tune 
of  "Catch  'em  alive,  O  catch  'em  alive";  others  collected 
our  leavings  for  farthings — rags,  bones,  and  bottles — chant- 
ing in  the  entries  (back  alleys)  a  nasal  "Har!  Hoe!"* 
("Rags!  Bones!"?)  ;  misshapen,  gnomelike  charwomen 
who  earned  twopence  yellow-stoning  the  front-door  steps, 
and  who  were  sometimes  seen  taking  their  earnings  into 
the  Brunswick  pub.  Nobody  had  ever  heard  of  a  Jewish 
woman  going  into  a  pub — it  would  have  been  considered 
a  monstrosity — or  of  Jews  bawling  and  brawling  in  the 
street;  and  the  sight  of  a  Jew  being  led  off  by  a  policeman 
would  have  been  considered  a  communal  calamity.  Nor 
would  we  ever  have  permitted  a  Jew  to  show  himself  in 
the  God-forsaken  condition  of  the  rag-and-bone  and  fly- 
catcher men,  unless  he  was,  like  poor  meshuggener  (loony) 
Benjy,  a  harmless  lunatic  who  could  be  neither  committed 
nor  controlled. 

My  people  were  not  quite  fair;  they  forgot  that  in  Ru- 
mania and  elsewhere  there  was  a  comparable  Jewish  class, 
if  with  other  defects.  Yet  they  were  not  wholly  unfair. 
Rumania  was  a  miserable  country,  England  was  the  world's 
richest  and  noblest,  and  there  was  no  excuse.  They  felt, 
moreover,  that  a  community  is  to  be  judged  not  only  by 



how  the  majority  behaves,  but  also  by  what  it  tolerates 
in  a  minority.  A  community  in  which  "only"  five  per  cent 
of  the  death  rate  is  accounted  for  by  murder  would — if 
such  a  community  is  thinkable — properly  be  called  a  den 
of  murderers. 

They  were  unfair  in  another  respect.  They  had  no  idea 
how  much  good  humor,  as  well  as  native  goodness,  how 
much  courage — I  could  almost  use  the  word  gallantry — 
there  was  in  some  of  those  tatterdemalion,  occasionally 
boozy  charwomen.  Nor  did  they  make  allowance  for  con- 
ditions different  from  their  own.  None  of  my  people  knew 
the  taste  of  "black  labor,"  the  exhausting,  brutalizing 
slavery  of  navvies,  stevedores,  steel  workers,  porters.  They 
were  artisans — tailors,  shoemakers,  carpenters — or  shop- 
keepers. On  the  other  hand,  it  was  not  physical  exertion 
which  frightened  them  away  from  the  heavier  occupations; 
it  was  the  horrible  prospect  of  becoming  mindless  beasts 
of  burden.  How  could  they  have  hung  on  to  what  they 
called  "dus  hissel  Yiddishkeit,"  their  bit  of  Jewishness? 

This  was  how  they  referred  to  it,  apologetically,  know- 
ing how  far  they  fell  short  of  anything  like  the  ideal.  But 
their  "bit  of  Yiddishkeit"  was  related,  for  them,  to  some- 
thing much  more  comprehensive  than  a  moral  code.  It 
was  part  of  a  time-defying  identity  which  they  associated 
with  the  atoo  buchartooni  (as  they  pronounced  it),  the 
notion  of  the  Chosen  People.  Asked  to  define  the  notion, 
they  would  fall  back  on  dogma  and  self-flattery;  yet  their 
self-flattery  had  nothing  to  do  with  their  real  merit,  which 
they  did  not  wholly  understand,  while  I,  of  course,  did 
not  understand  it  at  all. 

There  was  a  point  of  view  from  which  they  looked  down 
on  mighty  England  as  a  whole.  "Looked  down"  is  per- 
haps a  little  too  strong;  "felt  sorry"  is  nearer  to  it.  If  they 
could  not  say  enough  about  English  justice,  their  admira- 



tion  was  based  to  some  extent  on  the  paradoxical  fact 
that  the  English  had  never  received  the  Torah,  our  Torah, 
the  everlasting  word  of  God.  It  made  England's  moral 
achievement  all  the  more  remarkable,  but  it  was  useless 
to  deny  that  this  handicap  was  bound,  ultimately,  to  be 
England's  undoing,  as  it  had  been  the  undoing  of  so  many 
empires  before  hers.  A  great  pity,  a  very  great  pity — such 
a  wonderful  people!  But  there  it  was.  Theoretically  the 
English  might  save  themselves  by  becoming  Jews,  but  that 
was  unlikely  before  the  coming  of  the  Messiah,  and  then 
it  would  be  too  late,  for  by  then  empires  would  be  a  thing 
of  the  past,  and  everybody  would  have  accepted  the  Torah. 
If  you  wanted  to  see  the  fatal  deficiency  at  its  clearest 
you  had  only  to  look  at  the  English  institution  of  sports, 
before  which  my  people  stood  baffled  and  dismayed.  Ath- 
letics for  the  young  it  understood;  person  to  person  physi- 
cal competition  it  also  understood,  again  for  the  young — 
the  foolishness  of  immaturity;  one  condoned  it,  one  never 
encouraged  it.  But  that  people  of  mature  years  should  as- 
semble voluntarily  by  the  thousands  and  tens  of  thousands 
and  work  themselves  into  a  wild  excitement  watching 
others  hardly  less  mature  (in  our  world  one  was  mature 
in  the  early  teens)  kick  a  ball  round  a  field  was  evidence 
of  that  deep-rooted  pagan  aberration  from  which  we  had 
been  rescued  by  the  Torah.  It  was  not  a  defect  of  simple 
ignorance.  The  educated  English  classes,  far  from  dis- 
associating themselves  from  the  institution,  were  its  pillars, 
and  accounted  it  one  of  the  glories  of  their  civilization, 
perhaps  the  fount  of  all  its  other  glories.  Doctors  and  pro- 
fessors (the  reverence  with  which  we  uttered  such  titles!) 
attended,  unashamed,  unrebuked,  cricket,  football,  and 
boxing  matches,  and  took  the  outcome  passionately  to 
heart.  So  much  my  people  gathered  from  the  Yiddish  paper 
and  from  us  children.  Well,  say  what  you  like,  there  were 



undoubtedly  men  of  great  learning  among  the  English, 
and  they  had  written  learned  books,  but  what  compari- 
son could  there  be  between  these  and  the  Talmud,  or  the 
Rambam  (Maimonides)?  When  I  pointed  out  that  in  our 
little  world  no  one,  my  rebbe  excepted,  had  ever  so  much 
as  looked  at  a  page  of  the  Talmud  or  of  Maimonides,  let 
alone  read  a  paragraph  of  an  English  philosopher,  the 
reply  was:  "Socialist!  So  you  think  the  goyim  have  some- 
thing as  good  as  the  Torah?  If  they  have,  why  do  they  be- 
have like  that?" 

That  question  and  reproach  must  have  been  addressed 
to  me  after  the  scholarship  had  made  a  new  man  of  me. 
How  I  handled  the  problem  I  can  no  longer  say,  but  until 
then  I  did  not  have  to  handle  it  because  it  had  no  reality, 
it  had  no  place  in  rational  discourse.  As  a  reader  of  The 
Gem,  The  Magnet,  Pluck,  etc.,  I  identified  myself  with  the 
pukka  and  japeful  young  heroes  of  the  British  public 
(i.e.,  private)  schools  as  portrayed  by  writers  who  had  ob- 
viously never  attended  one.  One  just  didn't  ask  Tom 
Merry  and  Harry  Wharton  what  sense  there  was  in  sports. 
Thus,  until  my  thirteenth  year,  I  knew  no  inner  conflict 
between  my  Jewish  and  my  non-Jewish  worlds;  they  di- 
vided me  into  two  peacefully  coexistent  but  non-commu- 
nicating halves. 

I  did,  on  occasion,  tell  my  parents  that  Mr.  Fisher,  one 
of  the  Standard  Four  teachers,  sometimes  played  football 
with  us,  and  that  Mr.  Sharpies,  our  headmaster,  had  been 
a  noted  footballer  in  his  young  manhood,  and  was  still 
proud  of  his  record  in  the  field.  It  was  no  use.  The  moral 
authority  of  England  was  circumscribed;  Jewish  was  Jew- 
ish, goyish  was  goyish.  My  mother,  in  so  many  ways  more 
permissive  than  my  father,  shared  the  common  view  on 
sports.  She  said:  "Narralle,  silly,  just  imagine  your  rebbe 
playing  football  with  the  cheder  boys;  vus  jar  a  poonim 



vot  doos  gehot — what  would  it  look  like?"  It  would  cer- 
tainly have  looked  mad:  that  bearded  and  portly  pietist 
in  his  black  gaberdine  (or,  unimaginably,  bare-kneed  in 
shorts) ,  crouching  between  goal  posts  or  dribbling  a  foot- 
ball down  the  field  and  shouting  some  Yiddish  equivalent 
for  "Pass!"  or  "Offside!"  Maddest  of  all  was  the  thought 
of  him  leaping  into  the  air  like  Mr.  Fisher  to  intercept  the 
ball  with  his  head.  It  illustrated  perfectly  the  incommu- 
nicability  of  the  two  worlds,  and  because  of  this  incom- 
municability  there  was  no  ideological  or  inner  clash,  only 
a  clash  of  external  wills.  But  when  I  turned  "intellectual" 
and  affected — intermittently,  at  any  rate — a  vast  contempt 
for  sports,  quoting  with  relish  Kipling's  "muddied  oafs," 
my  parents  were  still  in  the  wrong.  For,  as  I  saw  it,  they 
spoke  from  prejudice,  I  from  reflection.  Marvelous  and 
eternal  insolence  of  youth!  They  were  the  "not  yet,"  I 
was  the  "no  longer." 

Football  and  cricket  were  of  course  not  our  only  pas- 
times. There  were  "the  hills,"  or,  as  my  parents  called  it, 
"de  heels,"  an  unbuilt  area  stretching  from  behind  the 
northern  side  of  Bury  New  Road  to  Hightown,  half  a 
mile  away.  This  bleak,  undulating  expanse  of  clay  was 
the  land  of  our  adventure  and  our  Tom  Tiddler's  ground. 
Here  and  there  its  repulsive  infecundity  was  emphasized 
by  scabby  eruptions  of  green,  and  in  the  middle  of  it  was 
Gilly's  Pond,  forty  or  fifty  feet  across,  in  which  by  a  mir- 
acle of  ecology  tiny  fishes  we  called  jacksharps  lived.  You 
sat  on  the  bank  and  made  a  wild  sweep  with  an  empty 
jam  jar  when  one  of  them  darted  by  below  you.  Occasion- 
ally you  fell  in,  and  anyhow  you  splashed  yourself  from 
head  to  foot,  which  came  to  the  same  thing.  When  not 
fishing,  you  went  Alpine  climbing,  for  which  you  needed 
a  length  of  wash  line,  purloined  for  the  duration,  and  two 
or  three  companions.  Tied  to  one  another,  you  clambered 



up  gentle  slopes  pretending  fiercely  they  were  perpendicu- 
lar; you  dug  your  heels  in  grimly,  shouted  warnings  of 
mortal  glacier  depths,  and  organized  intrepid  rescue 
parties  for  the  heedless  or  reckless.  When  the  fishing  or 
climbing  was  over,  you  labored  in  vain  to  remove  the 
evidence  from  your  clothes  and  tried  to  sneak  into  the 
house  by  the  back  door,  dreading  more  your  mother's 
heartbroken:  "You've  been  on  de  heels  again!"  than  the 
cuffing  you  expected  from  your  father;  dreading  most 
of  all  to  be  caught  with  the  jam  jar  and  to  have  your  jack- 
sharp — there  was  seldom  more  than  one — thrown  out  with 
the  muddy  water. 

The  lure  of  "the  hills"  was  heightened  by  two  attend- 
ant dangers,  a  brick  works  and  occasional  gangs  of  pug- 
nacious Salford  youngsters  of  our  age.  Of  these  the  first 
was  the  more  serious.  There  was  a  deep  gully  where  the 
clay  had  been  excavated,  and  a  gondola-carrying  cable 
stretched  on  a  downward  slope  from  one  end  of  the  gully 
to  the  other.  On  Sunday  the  works  were  deserted,  and  it 
was  a  tremendous  lark  to  haul  the  gondola  to  the  top  of 
the  slope  and  ride  it  to  the  bottom,  jumping  off  just  before 
it  smacked  into  the  wooden  buffer.  This  was  a  group  en- 
terprise; it  took  six  or  seven  of  us  to  do  the  hauling,  though 
only  two  of  us  could  ride  at  a  time.  We  quarreled  for  the 
privilege  of  the  ride,  less  for  the  pleasure  of  it  than  for 
the  fear  of  being  thought  cowards.  I  am  astonished  that, 
as  far  as  I  remember,  no  one  was  ever  killed  or  crippled. 

A  policeman  was  assigned  on  Sundays  to  keep  trespass- 
ers off,  but  he  took  his  duties  lightly  and  absented  himself 
for  hours  at  a  stretch.  We  posted  sentinels  at  strategic 
points,  and  they  had  two  warning  signals.  When  the  po- 
liceman was  first  espied,  they  shouted:  "N.L.T.C.!"  for: 
"Now,  lads,  the  copper!"  When  he  had  approached  within 
a  certain  distance,  it  was:  "N.L.T.C.C!"  for:  "Now,  lads, 



the  copper  coming!"  We  could  just  as  well  have  shouted 
the  whole  words  instead  of  the  first  letters,  but  that  would 
have  lacked  flavor. 

The  gang  tussles  were  nothing  like  the  "rumbles"  of 
our  modern  American  cities.  No  weapons,  not  even  sticks, 
were  used.  There  would  be  much  skirmishing  and  shout- 
ing and  bragging,  for  ceremonial  purposes — it  makes  me 
think  now  of  classical  Chinese  armies  and  certain  prudent 
Italian  condottieri — and  sometimes  a  free-for-all  from 
which  you  emerged  at  worst  with  a  bloody  nose.  We  would 
have  been  happy  in  this  evidence  of  our  valor  if  it  could 
alv/ays  have  escaped  the  attention  of  our  parents;  but  a 
bloodstained  shirt  or  coat  was  infinitely  worse  than  soaked 
clothing  or  a  jam  jar  with  a  jacksharp  in  it. 

I  can  still  catch,  across  half  a  century  and  more,  the 
note  of  despair  in  the  voices  of  our  parents.  It  seemed  so 
disproportionate  to  our  misdemeanors.  I  did  not  under- 
stand that  they  were  troubled  by  something  other  and 
far  deeper  than  torn  clothes  and  wasted  time.  Our  pas- 
times were  so  heathenish;  we  were  behaving  like  shkotzim, 
young  goyim;  we  were  going  in  the  ways  of  the  unbelievers. 

How  should  old  people  feel  when  the  young  seem  to 
be  abandoning  them  in  a  hostile  world?  The  sense  of 
security  grows  slowly,  and  there  were  times  when  my  peo- 
ple were  back  in  the  past.  There  was  evidence  of  anti- 
Semitism  in  the  Saturday-night  rowdies;  it  came  from 
youngsters  as  well  as  from  tipsy  adults.  We  soon  learned 
the  words  "Sheeny-makalairy"  and  "Smoggy  van  Jew." 
"Sheeny"  by  itself  was  bad  enough;  "Sheeny-makalairy" 
and  "Smoggy  van  Jew,"  accompanied  by  an  offensive  ges- 
ticulation— a  wagging  of  the  fiat,  upturned  palms  about 
the  ears — were  more  venomous.  Some  of  this  may  have 
been  coarsely  good-natured,  but  my  people  were  not  of 
a  mind  to  make  fine  distinctions;  ancestral  and  personal 



memories  were  too  strong.  We  were  gratefully  aware  that 
England  was  adamant  in  the  protection  of  our  persons, 
and  generous  beyond  praise  in  the  acknowledgment  of 
our  human  rights.  Yet  there  was  this  echo  of  the  "Hep! 
Hep!"  of  the  Middle  Ages. 

The  etymologies  of  "Sheeny,"  "Makalairy,"  and 
"Smoggy"  are  much  debated.  "Hep"  is  clearly  traceable  to 
the  first  letters  of  "Hieroselyma  est  perdita" — Jerusalem  is 
destroyed,  or  damned.  My  people,  indifferent  to  etymology, 
had  an  ear  for  essentials,  and  they  had  heard  "Hep!  Hep!" 
more  than  once  in  Rumania. 

Among  my  most  uncomfortable  memories  is  that  of 
the  contempt  in  which  for  a  time  I  held  this  sensitivity 
of  my  parents  and  relatives.  I  enjoined  them,  as  well  as 
I  could,  to  rise  above  their  anachronistic  timidities.  We 
were,  I  told  them,  in  the  twentieth  century,  not  the  nine- 
teenth, or  the  eighteenth,  let  alone  the  thirteenth,  or 
twelfth.  Recent  pogroms  in  Russia,  brutal  discrimination 
in  Rumania?  "Yes,  yes,  I  know.  Why  do  you  keep  harping 
on  that?  They  are  the  last  remnants  of  a  tyranny  which 
tomorrow's  revolution  will  sweep  away  forever.  The 
Dreyfus  case?  Well,  didn't  France,  the  mother  of  revolu- 
tions, come  out  clean  in  the  end?  It  took  a  long  time,  you 
say,  and  the  struggle  was  fierce?  I  know,  but  even  while 
the  Dreyfus  case  was  on,  we  got  shelter  in  France,  didn't 
we?  And  nobody  molested  us  there.  You  do  trust  England 
and  America,  but  even  there  you  smell  infection.  And  what 
about  Germany?  Do  you  smell  it  there,  too?  The  trouble 
with  you  is,"  I  continued,  anticipating  in  the  strangest 
way  the  arguments  I  met  later  in  novels  by  American 
Jews,  "the  trouble  with  you  is  that  you  think  of  the  gen- 
tiles the  way  the  lowest  gentiles  think  of  us;  we  have  horns, 
they  say,  and  drink  Christian  blood."  The  trouble  with 
me  was  that  I  was  so  fond  of  saying  "the  trouble  with  you 


W  loi  W 


The  Fathers  of  the  Clan 



.HE  JEWISH  schooling  of  my  elders  in  the  commu- 
nity had  for  the  most  part  been  better  than  mine.  It  had, 
like  mine,  been  limited  to  an  old-fashioned  cheder,  but  in 
Rumania,  and  for  many  more  hours  daily,  very  often 
without  the  competition  of  a  Rumanian  school.  (But  my 
father  left  cheder  at  the  age  of  eight,  and  did  not  go  to  a 
Rumanian  school.  Where  he  picked  up  his  Jewish  knowl- 
edge, and  how  he  learned  to  read  so  well,  is  a  mystery  to 
me.)  They  had  studied  the  Pentateuch  with  the  standard 
medieval  commentary  of  Rashi;  they  were  more  familiar 
than  I  with  the  Midrashic  folklore  of  legend  and  parable, 
which  covered  all  of  Biblical  history  and  part  of  post- 
Biblical  history.  In  the  Jewish  world  this  was  considered 
the  equivalent  of  an  elementary-school  education.  It  was 
not  only  poverty  that  had  kept  them  from  going  further; 
Rumanian  Jewry  had  a  merited  reputation  for  spiritual 
backwardness.  But  it  would  be  a  great  mistake  to  interpret 
the  depth  and  substance  of  their  culture  in  terms  of  an 
English  elementary  education. 

What  they  knew  had  been  woven  by  continuous  later 
repetition  into  their  workaday  lives.  The  average  English 
adult  who  had  left  school  and  gone  to  work  at  the  age  of 
thirteen  or  fourteen  hardly  remembered,  except  as  names, 
Boadicea,  Alfred  the  Great,  Hereward  the  Wake,  Richard 


the  Lion-Hearted,  Queen  Elizabeth,  the  Armada,  Crom- 
well. How  often  would  you  hear  them  mentioned,  let  alone 
curiously  discussed,  in  the  English  workman's  home,  or  at 
his  convivial  gatherings,  or  in  the  pub?  Among  my  people, 
the  patriarchs  Abraham,  Isaac,  and  Jacob  and  their  wives 
were  household  familiars;  so  were  Joseph  and  his  brothers, 
who  together  with  the  patriarchs  formed  the  pre-people- 
hood  group  and  moved  about  in  a  primeval  world  of  their 
own;  so  were  Moses,  Aaron,  Miriam,  Amalek,  Balaam,  Og, 
King  of  Bashan,  Joshua,  Samson,  Samuel,  David,  Solomon, 
Elijah,  Mordecai,  Esther,  Haman,  Ahasuerus,  and  the  post- 
Biblical  figures  of  Hillel,  Yohanaan  ben  Zakkai,  Eleazar 
ben  Azaryah,  Akiba,  Bar  Kochba.  We  talked  about  them 
casually,  as  well  as  reverently — or,  as  the  case  might  be, 
abusively.  We  gossiped  about  them,  and  since  they  were 
quite  alive  to  us,  and  therefore  contemporaries,  their  his- 
torical order  was  in  one  sense  irrelevant. 

Their  personalities  owed  more  to  legend  and  commen- 
tary than  to  the  terse  Biblical  text.  The  Bible  told  us 
what  they  had  done  and  we  decided  what  to  make  of  it, 
placing  the  emphasis  where  we  chose,  often  without  war- 
rant in  the  record.  Abraham  our  Father  was  of  course  the 
first  Jew,  the  "discoverer"  of  God;  we  would  not  have 
dreamed  of  challenging  the  fact;  nevertheless,  it  was  impos- 
sible for  us  to  think  of  Noah,  who  preceded  him  by  ten 
generations,  as  a  goy.  He  was,  to  be  sure,  uncircumcised, 
but  he  had  been  naturalized  from  of  old  by  an  unofficial 
referendum.  We  did  not  intend  thereby  to  diminish  the 
uniqueness  of  Abraham's  spiritual  achievement  or  the 
sharpness  of  the  division  that  he  represents  in  human  his- 
tory; we  just  could  not  leave  Noah  out  in  the  cold. 

The  heroic  and  revolutionary  aspect  of  Abraham's 
career  somehow  did  not  come  off  in  the  folklore.  We  knew 
about  his  struggle  with  the  mighty  Nimrod;   we  knew 



about  his  defiance  of  the  fiery  furnace;  we  saluted  his  faith- 
ful and  indomitable  spirit;  but  we  preferred  to  dwell  on 
Abraham's  intellectual  struggles  with  his  heathen  father, 
Terah,  in  which  there  was  more  of  the  hilarious  than  the 
heroic.  Poor  old  Terah!  We  couldn't  make  a  real  villain 
of  him;  he  was,  after  all,  Abraham's  father;  so  we  turned 
him  into  a  ridiculous  old  duffer  who  could  be  out-argued 
by  the  simplest  child.  Indeed,  our  favorite  stories  of  the 
God-discovery  were  of  Abraham's  childhood  and  his  pre- 
cocious exposure  of  the  impotence  of  his  father's  idols. 
What  a  hash  he  made  of  them — literally,  chopping  them 
up  merrily  and  pretending  in  all  innocence  that  they  had 
fallen  out  among  themselves — as  the  ancient  gods  so  often 
did — and  set  upon  each  other  mercilessly.  But  of  course 
old  Terah,  scratching  his  gray  head,  wasn't  to  be  con- 
vinced. Old  Terah:  the  adjective  accompanies  his  every 
mention,  partly  derisive,  partly  compassionate;  Terah  is 
senility;  a  young  Terah,  a  middle-aged  Terah  was  un- 
thinkable. There  he  was,  there  he  is,  the  obstinate  old  bab- 
bler, everlasting  symbol  of  uneducable  heathendom;  and 
there  stands  the  boy  Abraham,  or  Abram  as  he  was  called 
first,  gleeful  and  godly,  axe  in  hand  among  the  litter  of 
limbs  and  noses  and  torsos  of  teraphim. 

We  did  not  make  much  of  Abraham  the  warrior,  though 
he  once  fought  a  notable  action,  he  and  his  three  hundred 
and  eighteen  household  retainers,  against  Chedorlaomer, 
king  of  Elam,  and  his  allies;  he  smote  them  by  night  and 
chased  them  north  two  hundred  miles  or  so,  and  rescued 
his  nephew  Lot,  whom  they  had  taken  prisoner  at  Sodom. 
(There  was  another  ridiculous  character.  Lot  the  envious, 
Lot  the  sot.)  No,  Abraham  was  to  us  predominantly  the 
grandfather  figure,  mild  and  magnificent,  white-bearded 
and  benevolent.  The  stormy  years  are  behind  him — the 
excitement  of  the  Covenant,  the  argument  with  God  about 



the  destruction  of  Sodom,  the  painful  tangle  with  Hagar 
and  Ishmael  and  Sarah,  the  sojourn  in  Egypt,  the  long- 
drawn-out  waiting  for  the  true  heir,  the  dreadful  trial  of 
the  sacrifice.  He  is  rich  and  honored  and  wise,  he  has 
found  grace  in  the  eyes  of  God  and  of  man.  Yes,  of  course, 
there  is  that  marriage  of  his  after  Sarah's  death,  to  some 
woman  called  Keturah,  and  there  are  half  a  dozen  sons 
with  outlandish  names.  We  don't  talk  about  that;  we  talk 
about  Abraham's  fabulous  hospitality,  we  linger  over  it 
lovingly,  inventively,  giving  it  priority,  almost,  over  his 
discovery  of  God.  If  this  seems  to  show  a  misappreciation 
of  values,  we  must  consider  that  very  few  of  us  can  be  God- 
discoverers,  but  all  of  us  can  practice  hospitality,  be  the 
scale  never  so  humble.  Besides,  hospitality  means  life  itself 
to  a  nation  of  wanderers.  So  we  liked  to  recall  periodically 
how  Abraham  was  always  on  the  alert  for  wayfarers,  and 
how  his  tent  had  four  doors,  north,  south,  east,  and  west, 
so  that  the  wayfarer  would  not  even  have  to  trouble  look- 
ing for  the  entrance. 

I  once  heard  a  warm  argument  around  the  subject  of 
Abraham's  quadriportaled  tent  between  my  uncle  Moritz 
and  a  rag  merchant  by  the  name  of  Lamport.  I  have  said 
that  the  only  man  of  learning  in  our  community  was  my 
rebbe.  Lamport,  the  rag  merchant,  who  for  two  or  three 
years  rented  a  cellar  in  Uncle  Moritz's  house,  was  not  a 
Rumanian  but  a  Litvak  who  had  attended  a  Yeshivah,  or 
Talmudical  college,  and  his  sojourn  among  us  was  a  bright 
and  memorable  episode.  He  was  a  squat,  swarthy  young 
man,  thick-lipped,  lively,  and  talkative,  chockful  of  quota-^ 
tions  from  Talmud  and  Midrash,  delighting  in  the  display 
of  erudition  even  when  he  was  sorting  rags.  He  was  a  be- 
liever, but  no  longer  a  practicing  pietist.  He  had  shaved  off 
his  beard,  but  he  seemed  to  miss  it,  for  in  discourse  on 
sacred  matters  he  clutched  at  his  chin  occasionally,  as 
Talmudists  do  at  their  beards.  He  spoke  Lithuanian  Yid- 



dish,  of  course,  which  I  used  to  think  an  affectation.  How 
the  following  conversation  began  and  ended  I  do  not 
remember.  It  remains  in  my  mind's  museum,  along  with 
other  disconnected  exchanges  and  incidents,  like  a  frag- 
ment of  a  cuneiform  inscription. 

Uncle  Moritz  was,  it  seems,  disconcerted  by  the  sudden 
realization  that  Abraham's  all-welcoming  tent  must  have 
been  constructed  in  the  form  of  a  cross,  dread  emblem  of 
our  persecutors  which  Jews  must  scrupulously  avoid,  even 
to  the  extent  of  never  laying  a  knife  and  fork  crosswise  on 
the  table.  Then,  as  suddenly  bethinking  himself:  "Aha! 
Of  course!  There  were  no  Christians  in  Abraham  our 
Father's  day.  Besides,  the  Torah  had  not  yet  been  given  at 
Sinai,  and  the  only  commandment  he  had  was  about  cir- 
cumcision. Emessi  True?" 

"Not  true  at  all,  if  you'll  forgive  me,"  answered 
Lamport,  "and  you,  having  been  to  cheder,  should  know 
better,  for  it  is  written  in  the  Pentateuch  that  God  blessed 
Isaac  because  Abraham  had  observed  all  His  command- 
ments, statutes,  and  laws.  You've  forgotten." 

"By  no  means,"  retorted  Uncle  Moritz.  "The  Torah  is 
not  mentioned  in  that  passage.  Commandments,  statutes, 
laws,  but  it  doesn't  say  Torah.  We  had  no  Torah  yet." 

Lamport's  voice  went  into  a  singsong,  his  chin  wagged 
together  with  the  hand  that  clutched  it.  "So — we  are  be- 
coming pedantic!  Then  let  me  tell  you:  it  is  written  clearly 
in  the  Midrash  that  Jacob  our  Father  studied  under  Shem 
and  Eber.  What  do  you  think  he  studied?" 

"How  should  I  know?  There  are  many  things  they  could 
have  studied,"  said  Uncle  Moritz,  sharply.  But  he  was 

"Certainly,  certainly.  But  tell  me,  my  very  dear  Mr. 
Acker,  can  you  imagine  that  Jacob  our  Father  was  such  a 
goy  that  he  studied  many  things  but  not  the  Torah?" 

"Gevald!  Help!"  cried  Uncle  Moritz.  "I  don't  imagine 



anything  unbecoming  to  Jacob  our  Fatiier.  I  only  know  the 
Torah  came  a  long  time  later." 

"Came  where?  The  Torah  was  ready,  black  fire  on  white, 
a  million  years  before  it  was  handed  to  us  at  Sinai,  a  mil- 
lion years  before  the  world  was  created." 

"That  stands  written?" 

"And  how!  But  I  will  ask  you  another  question.  Do  you 
think  Abraham  our  Father  ate  pork?" 

Uncle  Moritz  was  stunned.  "God  forbid." 

"Why  not,  if  he  didn't  know  the  Torah  and  all  the  six 
hundred  and  thirteen  commandments?" 

"Because  it  doesn't  make  sense,"  said  Uncle  Moritz. 

"Moreover,"  continued  Lamport,  "the  Fathers  were  all 
prophets,  and  even  if  the  Torah  had  not  yet  existed  they 
would  have  foreseen  its  contents  and  lived  according  to 

"They  were  prophets?  That  too  stands  written?" 

"It  stands  written,  it  stands  written,"  and  Lamport 
quoted  chapter  and  verse. 

A  light  had  come  into  Uncle  Moritz's  face,  and  he  ral- 
lied. "I  believe  you  with  all  my  heart.  You  are  not  the  kind 
to  mislead  a  simple  Jew."  And,  smiling  sarcastically:  "So 
you  will  please  let  me  go  back  to  where  I  was.  //  Abraham 
our  Father  was  a  prophet,  and  if  he  foresaw,  as  he  must 
have  done,  that  Christians  would  come  into  the  world,  why 
did  he  build  his  tent  in  the  form  of  a  cross?" 

"That,"  said  Lamport  blandly — and  it  was  clear  that  he 
had  been  stalling  while  he  cast  about  for  the  answer — "that 
is  an  entirely  different  matter.  It  happens  to  be  one  of  the 
Teccou  questions." 

Teccou\  Blessed  refuge  of  the  baffled  intellect!  The 
proper  transliteration  is  Teiku,  but  I  have  made  it  Teccou 
so  as  to  transpose  the  acronym  into  English.  The  word  is 
composed  of  the  first  letters  of  a  Hebrew  phrase  which  in 



free  translation  would  read:  Till  £lijah,  Coming,  Clarifies 
Our  f/nderstanding.  For  in  the  folklore  Elijah  the  Prophet 
is  the  most  multifarious  of  benefactors.  While  the  present 
world  order  endures,  he  is  the  comforter  of  the  poor,  the 
sick,  and  the  oppressed;  and  when  this  order  draws  to  a 
close,  he  will  announce  the  coming  of  the  Messiah.  But 
perhaps  most  important  of  all  to  a  highly  disputatious 
people,  he  will  solve  all  the  unanswerable  intellectual 
riddles  that  have  tormented  it  since  its  beginnings. 

I  know  now  that  Lamport  often  poked  fun  at  us;  he 
passed  off  on  us  hoary  jokes  that  were  current  in  his  part 
of  the  world  but  not  in  ours — the  consecrated  academic 
pleasantries  of  the  learned  Litvaks,  chiefly  of  the  question- 
begging  variety.  Thus,  Uncle  Leon  once  asked  him  why 
God  had  chosen  to  liberate  the  Jews  precisely  on  the 
wonderful  festival  of  Passover,  to  which  Lamport  replied: 
"Exactly!  Because  it  is  the  most  wonderful  festival.  God 
knows  what  He's  about."  To  the  question:  "Where  is  it 
written  that  a  Jew  must  always  keep  his  head  covered?"  he 
was  shameless  enough  to  come  up  with  the  ancient  chest- 
nut: "In  the  Pentateuch  itself,  in  Genesis:  'And  God  said 
unto  Abram:  "Go!  Get  thee  out  of  thy  country."  '  Can  you 
imagine  Abraham  our  Father  going  about  with  uncovered 

Behind  Lamport's  playfulness  there  was  solid  learning 
and  a  deep  meditative  streak.  I  cannot  forget  what  he 
once  said  on  the  subject  of  "nothingness."  Whether  it  was 
Uncle  Moritz,  or  Uncle  Leon,  or  my  father  who  had  raised 
the  immemorial  problem  of  the  yesh  m'ayin,  the  creation 
of  the  world  out  of  nothing,  I  do  not  remember.  I  remem- 
ber, however,  Lamport's  swarthy,  prematurely  wrinkled 
face,  dead  earnest,  and  his  eyes  suffused  with  a  dark  glow 
as  he  exclaimed:  "Nothingness,  eh?  You  utter  a  word  and 
you  don't  stop  to  reflect  what  it  means.  Nothingness!  A 



simple  matter,  you  fancy.  You,  a  creature  of  flesh  and 
blood,  point  into  what  you  call  empty  space,  and  you  say: 
'Nothing  is  there!  And  out  of  nothing  you  can  make 
nothing.'  But  I  tell  you  that  there  is  no  such  thing  as 
nothingness.  Our  nothingness  is  to  God's  nothingness  as 
night  is  to  day.  The  human  eye  cannot  see  it,  the  human 
hand  cannot  touch  it,  the  balance  cannot  weigh  it — but  in 
God's  nothingness  all  creation  lies  dissolved,  everything  is 
there,  asleep  for  us,  awake  for  Him,  ready  at  his  word  to 
become  visible  and  tangible  to  us."  Lamport,  though 
trained  in  the  rationalist  Talmudic  school  of  Vilna,  was 
talking  the  mysticism  of  the  Chassidism  and  Cabbalists. 

Uncle  Leon  was  greatly  drawn  to  Lamport,  and  since 
his  warehouse  was  only  a  few  doors  away  from  Uncle 
Moritz's  shop,  he  would  come  over  at  odd  moments  "to 
snatch  a  human  word,"  as  he  put  it.  In  fine  weather 
Lamport  would  be  squatting  in  the  yard  sorting  his  rags; 
on  rainy  days  he  worked  in  the  cellar  by  the  light  of  a 
kerosene  lamp.  I  would  be  present  occasionally,  but  only 
by  chance,  perhaps  waiting  for  my  cousin  Mick,  perhaps 
on  an  errand.  I  had  no  relish  for  these  conversations,  for 
this  was  about  the  period  of  my  sharpest  rebellion  against 
Jewish  things;  and  yet,  marvelously  enough,  what  I  heard 
accidentally,  indifferently,  or  with  disdain,  sank  in,  so  that 
I  am  repeatedly  astounded,  as  I  come  across  traditional 
Jewish  stories  or  sayings  or  anecdotes,  to  feel  a  sudden  start 
within  me,  a  resurrection:  "Why,  Rehbe  said  that  once!" 
Or  my  father,  or  one  of  my  uncles.  It  is  not  difficult  for  me 
to  accept  the  theory  that  once  an  idea  or  impression  passes 
through  the  gates  of  consciousness  it  takes  a  permanent 
residence  there,  far  more  securely  fastened  in  than  the 
substance  of  the  body,  which  is  replaced  several  times  be- 
tween birth  and  death. 

It  was  from  Lamport  that  I  first  heard  of  the  Maggidim, 



the  wandering  Jewish  preachers  of  East  European  Jewry, 
those  fabulists  and  moralists  and  sayers  of  parables  and 
popular  educators  who  were  to  the  Jews  of  the  ghettos  and 
Shtetlach  what  the  minstrels  and  vagantes  and  minnesing- 
ers were  to  the  medieval  European  masses,  the  one  differ- 
ence being  that  the  Maggidim  were  of  a  strictly  religious 
cast.  The  most  famous  of  them  was  the  Maggid  of  Dubno, 
and  his  name  was  forever  on  Lamport's  lips,  for,  said 
Lamport,  there  was  not  a  human  problem  or  situation 
that  the  Dubno  Maggid  had  not  resolved  or  illuminated  in 
one  of  his  countless  parables. 

Uncle  Leon  once  voiced  to  Lamport  the  plaint  of  the 
Prophet  that  the  wicked  prosper  while  the  righteous  suf- 
fer, and  Lamport  answered  that  this  was  only  fitting  and 
proper  and  in  the  nature  of  things.  Uncle  Leon  began  a 
tirade:  such  a  point  of  view  was  incomprehensible,  an  af- 
front to  the  Ruler  of  the  world  and  to  the  intelligence  of 
man.  Lamport  held  up  a  hand. 

"Kocht  sich  nit — take  it  easy,  Mr.  Rothman,  and  I  will 
tell  you  how  the  Dubno  Maggid  explains  it,  so  that  the 
simplest  soul  may  understand.  For  the  Dubno  Maggid,  his 
memory  be  a  blessing  to  us,  spoke  to  the  common  people, 
but  in  such  a  way  that  even  the  wise  could  learn.  There 
were  once,  he  tells  us,  two  men  who  loved  each  other 
dearly,  and  whenever  they  met  they  exchanged  the  most 
affectionate  salutations.  But  one  morning,  as  they  encoun- 
tered each  other  on  the  street,  one  of  them  fell  upon  the 
other  with  such  curses  and  insults  as  only  the  lowest  men 
and  the  bitterest  enemies  bestow  on  each  other.  The 
victim  of  the  assault  was  at  first  astounded,  then  indignant, 
but  out  of  his  love  he  remained  silent;  he  did  not  raise  his 
hand  or  his  voice,  he  did  not  defend  himself,  he  uttered 
never  a  word,  but  went  home,  saying,  as  you  have  just 
said:  'This  is  incomprehensible.'  But  he  also  said  in  his 



heart:  'There  must  be  a  reason  for  it.  I  cannot  see  it,  but 
the  reason  is  surely  there.'  Some  time  later  the  two  friends 
again  met  in  the  street,  and  to  the  utter  amazement  of 
the  one  who  had  been  insulted,  the  other  greeted  him 
with  the  customary  expressions  of  affection.  'What  is  this?' 
asked  the  insulted  one.  'Why  did  you  treat  me  so  villain- 
ously the  other  day?  What  cause  had  I  given  you?'  'None 
at  all,'  answered  his  friend.  'This  is  how  it  was.  Shortly 
before  I  met  you  I  was  cursed  and  vilified  on  the  street 
by  an  evil  man  whom  I  had  never  harmed.  I  was  filled 
with  indignation,  but  I  held  my  peace,  thinking:  "If  I 
answer  him  as  he  deserves,  he  will  become  more  offensive, 
and  who  knows  how  it  will  end?"  Then  I  came  face  to  face 
with  you  and  I  let  my  indignation  boil  over,  and  I  poured 
it  all  out  on  you,  knowing  you  would  not  answer  lest  you 
provoke  me  to  still  greater  rage.'  That  is  the  moshel,  the 
parable,  my  dear  Mr.  Rothman,  and  now  I  will  give  you 
the  nimshal,  the  application  of  the  parable.  God  sees  the 
wickedness  of  the  wicked,  and  He  hears  their  insults,  but 
He  will  not  argue  with  them  or  punish  them  in  this  world, 
for  that  would  only  drive  them  into  greater  wickedness. 
So  He  turns  from  them  and  pours  out  His  indignation  on 
the  righteous,  who  so  love  Him  that  they  endure  their  un- 
merited afflictions  without  complaint.  Thus  they  are  God's 
partners  in  saving  the  wicked  from  complete  destruction, 
and  this  is  what  constitutes  their  righteousness.  Now  do 
you  see?" 

It  was  thus,  or  approximately  thus,  that  I  heard  the 
parable  recently,  and  I  was  carried  back  as  in  a  vivid  wak- 
ing dream  to  Uncle  Moritz's  yard,  and  the  heap  of  rags, 
and  Lamport  and  Uncle  Leon.  I  cannot  tell  whether  Uncle 
Leon  "saw,"  for  the  rest  of  the  conversation  has  sunk  to 
lower  levels,  perhaps  never  to  be  plumbed  in  this  life.  I 
surmise  that  he  had  his  objections  and  that  in  the  end 



Lamport  fell  back  on  his  Teiku,  as  so  many  others  have 
done  on  this  haunting  and  tormenting  problem. 

Another  and  somewhat  fuller  evocation  was  granted  me 
when  I  heard  from  an  old  Maggid — the  breed  is  almost 
extinct — the  parable  of  the  King  and  the  Expert.  The  a 
propos  was  a  remark  by  Uncle  Leon  that  even  a  fool  could 
make  big  money  and  a  deluded  world  would  forever  stand 
in  awe  of  his  cleverness.  "On  that  point,"  said  Lamport, 
"he  of  Dubno  disagrees  with  you,  and  he  proves  that  sooner 
or  later  the  fool  comes  to  grief.  Listen  and  learn.  Once 
upon  a  time  there  was  a  king  who  was  a  passionate  lover 
of  rare  and  precious  stones.  The  king's  jeweler,  who  built 
up  his  collection  for  him,  was  the  greatest  expert  of  his 
time,  and  since  even  jewelry  experts  are  only  mortal,  this 
one,  too,  stretched  out  his  feet  one  day  and  took  himself 
off  to  the  place  where  there  is  no  buying  and  selling  and  no 
eating  of  beigels.  Great  was  the  consternation  of  the  king. 
Where  was  he  to  find  another  expert?  And  how  was  he  to 
set  about  it?  A  wise  old  councillor,  himself  no  jewelry 
expert,  came  to  the  king's  rescue,  'Adoni  ha-melech,  my 
Lord  the  King,  take  the  most  costly  of  your  jewels,  and 
give  it  into  the  hand  of  one  of  your  trusted  servants,  and 
let  him  go  into  the  city  and  offer  it  for  sale  at  auction.  The 
rest  will  follow.'  The  king  took  the  advice  of  the  old 
councillor,  and  a  servant  went  into  the  city  with  the  gem. 
Now  it  so  happened  that  in  this  same  city  there  was  a  rich 
man,  a  fool,  whom  everybody  considered  very  clever.  He 
too  was  a  lover  of  jewelry,  but  because  he  was  a  fool,  he 
thought  he  knew  everything  and  never  made  use  of  ex- 
perts; his  collection  therefore  consisted  of  diamonds  with 
flaws  and  even  of  pieces  of  glass  cunningly  cut  to  look  like 
diamonds.  When  the  servant  put  up  the  king's  gem  for 
sale,  the  bidding  began  at  a  high  level  and  the  fool,  hear- 
ing the  figures  go  up,  was  duly  impressed  and  said  craftily 



to  himself:  'This  must  be  a  wonderful  stone.  Whatever 
they  offer,  it  must  be  worth  more,  for  the  buyer  surely 
intends  to  resell.'  So  he  entered  the  bidding  and  raised 
every  offer  by  ten  per  cent.  The  dealers  at  last  dropped  out, 
and  the  fool  remained  the  buyer.  When  it  came  to  paying, 
he  brought  out  his  rubbishy  collection  of  flawed  diamonds 
and  pasteboard  pieces  and  said:  'Choose!  Here  is  more  than 
enough.'  But  far  from  being  enough,  you  understand,  it 
was  so  short  that  all  the  other  possessions  of  the  fool  could 
not  make  up  the  difference.  So  not  only  did  he  have  to 
pay  a  heavy  fine,  but  at  one  stroke  he  lost  his  reputation 
as  a  clever  man.  Now  do  you  see?" 

This  time  Uncle  Leon  "saw."  He  closed  his  eyes  in  a 
spasm  of  delight,  he  rubbed  his  hands  as  if  he  had  just 
done  a  good  stroke  of  business,  and  exclaimed:  "Gold,  Mr. 
Lamport,  pure  gold!  But  tell  me,  who  became  the  king's 

"The  dealer  who  made  the  last  bid  before  the  fool." 

Uncle  Leon  sighed:  "Ah!  Not  for  nothing  do  they  say 
that  learning  is  the  best  merchandise." 

It  was  from  the  Maggidim  that  my  people  learned  to 
exercise  their  imagination  in  the  folklore.  Their  treatment 
of  certain  Biblical  characters  was,  as  I  have  indicated, 
arbitrary,  and  I  have  my  own  Teiku  questions  on  some  of 
the  results.  Why,  for  instance,  did  they  always  say  "drunk 
as  Lot"  and  never  "drunk  as  Noah,"  or  Ahasuerus,  or  Nabal, 
the  brutish  husband  of  Abigail?  Of  all  these  it  is  told  that 
they  became  drunk  on  at  least  one  occasion;  but  it  was 
Noah  who  planted  the  vine,  and  he  was  the  first  of  all 
mortals  to  get  drunk.  Similarly,  they  said  "Balaam  the 
wicked"  and  "Haman  the  wicked,"  but  never  Pharaoh  the 
wicked,  though  they  held  Pharaoh  to  have  been  wickeder 
than  either  Balaam  or  Haman.  Balaam  had  been  hired  to 
pronounce  a  curse  on  the  Jews,  but  he  choked  on  it  and 



pronounced  a  blessing  instead,  to  the  astonishment  and 
fury  of  his  employer,  Balak,  King  of  Edom.  Haman  had 
planned  to  liquidate  only  a  part  of  the  Jewish  people — that 
which  lived  in  the  Persian  Empire,  But  Pharaoh's  plans 
had  been  directed  against  the  Jewish  people  in  its  entirety; 
nevertheless,  he  remained  plain  "Pharaoh,"  or,  formally, 
"Pharaoh,  King  of  Egypt."  On  the  other  hand,  one  can- 
not but  approve  of  their  characterization  of  Ahasuerus  as 
the  melech  tippesh,  the  royal  dope.  But  what  did  they  have 
against  Vyzoosoo,  the  youngest  of  Haman's  ten  sons,  who 
were  hanged  together  with  their  father  on  the  gallows, 
fifty  cubits  high,  which  had  been  prepared  by  Haman  for 
Mordecai?  Vyzoosoo  (Vyzatha  in  the  standard  translitera- 
tion) is  just  one  name  in  a  string  of  ten;  neither  he  nor 
his  brothers  are  ever  mentioned  again,  and  he  alone  has 
been  singled  out,  without  rhyme  or  reason,  for  everlasting 
disparagement.  In  the  shadier  part  of  the  Yiddish  vernac- 
ular a  Vyzoosoo  is  a  special  kind  of  fool,  the  kind  to 
whom  "liberal  shepherds  give  a  grosser  name." 

I  pick  out  faces  and  names  at  random.  Their  ever- 
presentness  to  us  obliterated  the  centuries  that  separated 
them.  They  come  before  me  in  ones  and  in  groups.  There 
is  Eleazar  ben  Azaryah,  out  of  the  Passover  Hagaddah;  at 
the  age  of  eighteen  he  stood  first  among  the  scholars  of 
Israel,  so  that  they  elected  him  Head  of  the  Academy  of 
Yabneh,  that  center  of  the  spirit  which  enabled  the  Jewish 
people  to  outwit  and  outlive  their  Roman  conquerors. 
Young  Eleazar  ben  Azaryah  found  the  honor  acutely  em- 
barrassing. How  was  he,  a  beardless  youth,  to  stand  before 
his  elders  expounding  the  Law?  But  God  came  to  his 
rescue,  and  the  night  before  his  induction  caused  him  to 
sprout  a  septuagenarian  beard,  a  face-saving  beard,  and 
none  of  us  asked  whether  the  rest  of  him  was  transformed 
to  suit.   There   is  Rabbi  Akiba,  another  master  of  the 



Torah.  He  is  the  opposite  of  Eleazar  ben  Azaryah,  for  until 
the  age  of  forty  he  was  an  illiterate  shepherd,  with  a  brutish 
hatred  of  scholars.  He  could  not  see  one,  he  confessed  in 
later  years,  without  wanting  to  "bite  him  like  an  ass." 
Then,  with  the  encouragement  of  his  bride-to-be,  a  young 
woman  of  noble  family  who  foresaw  his  illustrious  future, 
he  began  to  study,  and  by  the  time  he  was  eighty  he  ranked 
for  knowledge  of  the  Law  with  Moses  our  Teacher.  He 
married,  and  taught  for  another  forty  years,  and  at  a  hun- 
dred and  twenty  he  died  a  martyr  in  the  Hadrianic  per- 
secutions. Near  him  stands  his  pupil  Bar  Kochba,  the 
leader  of  the  rebellion  against  Hadrian  the  Destroyer 
whose  name  is  never  mentioned,  to  this  day,  without  a 
fervent  "May  his  bones  be  broken,"  as  if  they  have  not 
been  dust  this  many  a  century.  And  there  are  the  sages  of 
B'nai  Brak,  who  once  sat  out  a  Passover  night  expatiating 
on  the  wonders  of  the  exodus,  so  that  their  pupils  had  to 
break  in  on  them  respectfully  with:  "Gentlemen!  The 
time  has  come  for  morning  prayers."  There,  also  in  the 
Hagaddah,  is  the  gentle  Hillel,  a  man  incapable  of  an 
impatient  word  even  under  the  grossest  provocation.  A 
low  buffoon  once  undertook,  on  a  wager,  to  put  him  into  a 
rage,  and  one  night  called  him  repeatedly  out  of  bed  to  ply 
him  with  ridiculous  questions,  but  Hillel  answered  him 
sweetly  throughout,  and  in  the  end  was  rewarded  with  a 
curse  for  his  imperturbability.  "Better,"  finished  Hillel 
softly,  "that  you  should  lose  your  wager  than  I  my  tem- 

Every  member  of  the  supporting  cast  on  this  enormous, 
timeless  stage  is  clearly  limned,  and  no  matter  how  minor 
his  role  and  to  what  age  he  belongs,  he  is  indispensable; 
the  dramatis  personae  would  be  incomplete  without  him. 
We  felt  about  them  in  the  irrational  way  one  feels  about 
the  members  of  one's  family — that  we  would  have  missed 



them  if  they  had  never  been  born.  But  it  was  with  the 
greatest  figures  that  we  felt  most  at  home;  and  just  as  we 
turned  Abraham  the  revolutionary  into  a  lovable,  kind- 
hearted  grandfather  type,  we  domesticated  Moses  into  the 
apotheosis  of  the  homey  rebhe.  We  acknowledged  the  awe- 
someness  of  his  deeds,  we  saw  him  confronting  Pharaoh, 
and  commanding  the  waters  of  the  Red  Sea,  and  descend- 
ing from  the  lightnings  of  Sinai  with  the  tablets  of  the 
Law;  but  we  treated  him  as  the  children  of  a  home-loving 
Prime  Minister  might  treat  their  father.  His  greatness 
belongs  to  his  business  hours.  They  are  proud  of  his 
official  standing,  but  to  them  he  is  predominantly  the 
paterfamilias,  worrying  over  their  schoolmarks.  Had  we 
contemplated  Moses  as  the  Bible  presents  him,  we  would 
have  been  terrified  by  him.  As  with  Abraham  and  Moses, 
so  with  Elijah  the  Prophet.  He  was  to  us  no  wild  man  of 
the  desert,  no  slayer  of  false  prophets,  no  rebuker  of  kings; 
he  put  off  those  functions  when  he  came  to  us  as  the  con- 
soler and  helper  of  the  poor,  and  as  the  herald  of  the 

The  ever-presentness  of  the  fathers  of  the  clan,  their 
contemporaneousness  with  us,  was  consistent  with  our 
awareness  of  a  past  so  immense  that  it  dwarfed  into  noth- 
ingness the  historical  time-span  of  other  peoples.  We 
moved  tacitly  among  the  millennia,  while  they,  powerful, 
majestic,  but  evanescent,  were  cramped  into  the  centuries. 
That  was  how  my  rehbe  put  it,  and  I  objected  to  the  ten- 
to-one  proportion.  I  reminded,  or  rather  informed,  him 
that  our  history  was,  at  most,  only  twice  as  long  as  Eng- 
land's. I  expected  him  to  deny  it,  or  be  taken  aback,  but 
he  answered  with  a  tolerant  smile:  "Peasant  brain!  If  your 
grandfather  is  a  venerable  ninety  and  mine  a  miraculous 
hundred  and  eighty,  there's  actually  no  comparison  at  all!" 
That  left  me  speechless. 


At  the  Passover  table  my  father  used  to  interpolate  into 
the  service  a  Yiddish  song  I  have  never  heard  elsewhere, 
nor  have  I  been  able  to  trace  it  to  its  source. 

Full  four  hundred  years  did  Pharaoh 
Bathe  himself  in  Jewish  blood. 
Till  the  day  of  retribution — 
First-born  slain  and  Red  Sea  flood. 
Israel,  mocking,  calls  to  mind 
What  befalls  him  and  his  kind. 
Psalms  of  David,  words  of  sages. 
Guarded  us  across  the  ages. 
What  can  kings  and  tyrants  do 
In  their  rage  against  the  Jew, 
God's  word  holding  firm  and  true 
Through  eternity. 

Kings  and  tyrants  could  of  course  do  much  against  the 
Jew,  and  had  done  it,  as  my  people  very  well  knew.  What, 
then,  did  my  father  mean?  In  part,  that  we  were  losing  all 
the  battles  and  winning  the  war;  but,  more  than  that,  he 
used  the  word  Jew  to  indicate  an  indestructible  pledge. 
My  people  saw  their  Jewishness  as  a  pledge  given  by  their 
ancestors  at  Sinai,  binding  on  subsequent  generations  till 
the  end  of  time.  Jewish  history.  Biblical  and  post-Biblical, 
revolved  about  this  pledge,  around  repudiations  of  it, 
around  repudiations  of  the  repudiations,  and  on  its  fulfill- 
ment depended  the  fate  of  humanity.  God  would  keep  His 
word  if  the  Jew  kept  his.  Hence,  the  prayer  "Thou  hast 
always  saved  us  from  enemies  stronger  than  we"  really 
meant:  "Thou  hast  always  saved  a  remnant  of  us,  so  that 
the  pledge  might  not  be  lost."  What  a  megalomania  of 
responsibility!  But  it  is  after  all  only  the  kind  of  megal- 
omania which  election  posters  seek  to  awaken  in  the  in- 
dividual citizen.  It  was  as  if  a  finger  were  forever  pointing 



at  my  people  from  a  celestial  hoarding:  "Your  vote  can 
change  history!" 

They  could  neither  live  up  to  the  pledge  nor  get  rid  of  it. 
They  knew  themselves  to  be  unworthy,  but  there  was  no 
way  of  disowning  the  commitment.  They  simply  could 
not  believe  that  the  Jewish  people  had  survived  so  long 
to  no  special  purpose,  for  this  would  have  implied  that  God 
had  created  a  madhouse  and  called  it  history.  So  there  they 
were,  in  Glodorlui,  in  Macheen,  in  Lower  Strangeways, 
waiting  and  believing. 

"Believing"  was  only  part  of  it.  "Belonging"  is  equally 
important.  They  belonged  to  that  beloved,  densely  popu- 
lated world  which  stretched  back  to  the  beginning.  This 
was  their  home  in  the  cosmos;  it  gave  them  their  human 
form.  Loyalty  and  affection  held  them  there,  and,  more 
than  that,  the  terror  of  becoming  utter  nullities  if  they 
left  it.  Out  of  it,  they  would  have  nothing  to  talk  about 
but  their  suffering  and  their  sordid  economic  struggles. 

The  darkest  word  in  their  vocabulary  was  meshumad 
(they  pronounced  it  meshimid),  literally  "the  destroyed 
one,"  by  usage  "the  apostate,"  the  Jew  who  had  himself 
baptized.  The  literal  meaning  lurked  behind  the  idio- 
matic; a  meshumad  had  destroyed  his  memories,  hence 
himself.  He  had  turned  his  back  on  that  which  had  made 
him  one  with  the  patriarchs  and  prophets,  the  kings  and 
saints  and  sinners  and  sages  and  fools  among  whom  Jews 
had  always  lived.  Nameless  and  naked  he  went  forth  in  his 
perversity  into  an  alien  world,  where  his  ancestors  were 
either  unknown  or  mentioned  with  contumely. 

To  this  attitude,  too,  I  objected  strenuously,  and  in  an 
argument  with  Lamport  the  rag  dealer  pointed  out  that 
Christians  spoke  reverently  of  Abraham,  Isaac,  and  Jacob, 
of  David  and  Solomon  and  Isaiah.  "I  know  it,"  said  Lam- 
port, "I  know  it.  But  the  Christian  thinks  of  the  patriarchs 



and  prophets  in  his  own  way.  To  begin  with,  he  turns  them 
into  non-Jews;  and  he  disowns  any  kinship  with  them. 
Does  an  Englishman  talk  o£  Abraham  our  Father  as  his 
ancestor?  Does  he  tell  his  children  that  if  there  hadn't 
been  an  exodus  they  would  still  be  slaves  in  Egypt?  And 
anyway,  the  only  use  the  Christian  has  for  our  ancestors  is 
that  they  lived  and  died  in  order  that  Jesus  might  be  born. 
Where  does  that  leave  us  for  the  last  two  thousand  years?" 

"Faith,"  "belief,"  "credo" — these  are  words  which  can 
be  applied  to  my  childhood  world  only  from  the  outside. 
My  relatives  spoke  of  their  "Jewishness,"  which  must  be 
described  from  the  inside.  Sometimes  I  have  asked  myself 
whether  they  would  have  gone  to  the  scaffold  or  the  pyre 
rather  than  apostatize.  For  the  large  majority  the  answer 
is,  certainly,  "No."  Would  they,  outwardly  denying  their 
Jewishness  under  duress,  have  felt  desolated,  soiled,  and 
debased?  The  answer  is,  as  certainly,  "Yes,  all  of  them." 
Given  the  alternative,  the  same  large  majority  would  have 
preferred  exile  and  beggary  to  baptism.  Given  no  such 
alternative,  a  number  would  have  accepted  death. 

But  who  among  those  I  remember  had  such  stuff  in  him? 
How  difficult  to  think  of  such  ordinary  people  as  my  rebbe, 
my  grandfather,  my  mother,  my  father,  in  that  exalted 
role.  Still,  I  know  with  the  utmost  certainty  that  there 
were  some  who  simply  could  not  have  kissed  the  cross  in 
token  of  submission.  They  could  not  have  done  it!  If  they 
had  tried,  they  would  have  fainted  or  gone  rigid  in  hyster- 
ical paralysis.  I  hear  someone  say:  "Then  it  would  not  have 
been  a  question  of  willing  or  not  willing.  It  would  have 
been  mechanical."  And  I  answer:  "They  would  have  been 
true  martyrs  nonetheless." 


®  119  ® 




JL  JLow  DID  I  cram  so  much  into  my  boyhood  years?  I 
seem  to  have  had  time  for  everything.  There  was  school 
five  days  a  week,  from  nine  to  twelve  and  from  two  to  half 
past  four;  there  was  cheder  six  days  a  week,  from  six  to 
eight  on  Mondays,  Tuesdays,  Wednesdays,  and  Thursdays, 
an  afternoon  session  on  Saturdays  and  a  morning  session 
on  Sundays.  (My  poor  rebbe;  he  earned  his  shilling  or 
shilling  and  sixpence  a  week  from  each  pupil.)  There  were 
"the  hills,"  there  were  the  penny  weeklies,  there  was 
much  miscellaneous  reading,  and  not  a  little  daydreaming. 
Until  the  age  of  ten  and  a  half  I  lived  vividly  in  every- 
thing except  school  and  cheder.  A  faint  echo  of  far-off 
raptures  reaches  me  and  makes  a  stirring  in  my  blood. 
"The  hills"!  That  wild  expansion  of  heart  and  lungs  and 
imagination  when  I  scrambled  up  them,  oblivious  to  the 
penalties  that  waited  for  me  at  home!  In  his  youth,  Heine 
felt  that  he  could  eat  all  the  elephants  in  Hindustan  and 
pick  his  teeth  with  the  spire  of  Strassburg  Cathedral.  I,  in 
my  boyhood,  felt  that  my  running  feet  kept  the  world 
spinning.  On  "the  hills"  I  was  master  of  an  illimitable 
present  in  which  I  forgot  hunger  and  thirst,  home  and 
school  and  cheder.  I  forgot  them  also  when  I  plunged  into 


the  penny  weeklies  and  the  doings  of  Tom  Merry  and 
Harry  Wharton  and  Billy  Bunter  and  Arthur  Augustus 
d'Arcy.  I  would  read  walking  in  the  street,  bumping  into 
lampposts  in  my  addled  absorption.  I  was  at  St.  Jim's,  or 
at  Greyfriars,  I  was  making  a  century  at  cricket,  scoring  the 
winning  goal  with  five  seconds  to  go,  discovering  and  de- 
nouncing the  rotter  from  the  rival  rowing  team  who  had 
surreptitiously  sawed  through  the  oars  of  our  leading 

At  school  I  stayed  consistently  near  the  bottom  of  the 
class;  at  cheder  I  was  considered  a  clod.  My  parents  wailed: 
"It's  de  heels,  accursed  may  they  be,  de  heels,  and  football, 
and  cricket,  and  little  fishes."  I  loudly  exonerated  "the 
hills";  my  playmates  spent  as  much  time  on  them  as  I,  and 
some  of  them  were  at  the  top  of  the  class.  My  teachers 
blamed  the  penny  weeklies,  and  for  them  I  had  the  same 
defense;  among  the  top-ranking  boys  in  the  class  were 
cheder  companions  of  mine  who  were  equally  addicted  to 
the  weeklies.  I  was  willing  to  pass  for  a  dolt  rather  than 
dock  my  playtime  or  change  my  reading  habits. 

My  early  school  years  have  left  me  only  scattered 
memories.  Miss  Browne  of  Standard  Three  wore  green; 
she  was  haughty  and  and  handsome;  once  she  wrote  on  the 

Full  many  a  flower  is  born  to  blush  unseen, 
And  waste  its  sweetness  on  the  desert  air 

and  I  whispered  to  myself:  "How  true;  I'm  the  only  one 
who  understands."  Miss  Porrit  of  Standard  Two  was  narky 
(mean),  and  accepted  apples  from  the  pupils;  Mr.  Fisher 
of  Standard  Four  A  was  "champion,"  even  "bleddy-well 
champion,"  but  I  was  in  Standard  Four  B.  Mr.  George 
Sharpies,  the  headmaster  (he  might  have  sat  for  James 
Joyce's  Mr.  Deasy),  was  a  kind  of  divinity  with  a  life-pat- 



tern  all  his  own.  On  certain  unpredictable  mornings  he  lay 
in  ambush  for  late-comers;  he  would  station  a  monitor  at 
the  entrance  and  we  were  not  permitted  to  proceed  down 
the  corridor  to  class.  We  would  line  up,  and  at  a  quarter 
past  nine  Mr.  Sharpies  would  appear,  carrying  a  thin,  flex- 
ible cane.  We  would  hold  out  a  hand  for  a  single  swish;  no 
excuses,  no  reprimands,  just  a  brief,  silent,  and  tacit  trans- 
action. He  had  a  good  aim,  and  would  hit  us  sometimes 
on  the  fingertips,  which  really  hurt,  and  sometimes  on  the 
palm,  which  wasn't  too  bad.  There  were  fingertip  morn- 
ings and  palm  mornings,  and  whether  you  were  late  by  one 
minute  or  ten  made  no  difference;  everyone  got  the  same 
swishing.  We  took  this  ritual  to  be  the  duty  or  prerogative 
of  all  headmasters,  and  when  we  learned  that  Mr.  Harris  of 
the  Jews'  School  and  Mr.  Shair  of  Southall  Street  School 
did  not  perform  it  as  the  one  or  exercise  it  as  the  other,  we 
thought  the  less  of  them  for  it.  Mr.  Sharpies  had  a  fat 
brother  William,  whom  we  called  Tubby,  and  who  was 
an  ordinary  teacher  in  the  same  school.  Once,  for  what 
was  called  "object  lesson,"  he  brought  a  live  rabbit  into 
class,  choked  it  to  death,  and  dissected  it  for  us.  A  girl 

School  was  suddenly  and  completely  transfigured  for 
me  when  I  moved  up  one  autumn  into  Miss  Clarke's  class. 
Standard  Five.  The  very  building  became  unrecognizable, 
as  I  must  have  been  to  anyone  who  saw  me  hurrying 
toward  it  in  the  morning,  radiant-faced,  well  ahead  of  the 
bell.  Never  again  did  I  hold  out  my  hand  to  Mr.  George 
Sharpies,  and  try  to  shove  it  forward  on  fingertip  mornings 
to  receive  the  cane  on  my  palm.  Never  again  did  I  search 
the  hills  for  something  we  called  alum,  which  was  sup- 
posed to  anesthetize  the  skin.  Honor  and  love  to  the 
memory  of  Kate  Clarke;  she  was  one  of  the  happiest  acci- 
dents of  my  life. 



I  worshipped  her  from  the  first  day,  and  could  only  ex- 
press my  emotion — how  inadequately! — by  rising  to  the 
top  of  the  class.  I  was  glad  that  I  had  come  to  her  with  a 
poor  record,  with  a  reputation  for  slovenliness  and  in- 
attentiveness.  I  wished  the  record  had  been  poorer  still,  to 
make  the  contrast  greater.  Toward  the  end  of  that  year  I 
was  haunted  by  the  dolorous  prospect  of  losing  her,  and 
when  we  heard  that  she  would  move  with  us  into  Standard 
Six,  I  felt  like  uttering  a  prayer  of  thanksgiving. 

Rising  to  the  top  of  the  class  was  no  trick  at  all;  it  was 
just  as  easy  to  be  there  as  at  the  bottom.  I  played  as  much 
as  before,  I  read  as  many  weeklies,  and  I  did  as  badly  as 
ever  at  cheder.  The  transformation  was  exclusively  a  school 
phenomenon;  during  school  hours  I  was  obsessed  by  a 
single  need — to  please  Miss  Clarke,  to  do  the  best  com- 
position in  the  class,  to  have  the  right  answer  when  she 
called  on  me,  particularly  if  she  had  called  on  others  be- 
fore me  and  their  answers  had  been  wrong.  How  my  excite- 
ment mounted  as  one  wrong  answer  followed  another, 
how  I  trembled  lest  some  male  or  female  oaf,  who  hadn't 
a  thousandth  part  of  my  love  for  Miss  Clarke,  should 
anticipate  the  words  trembling  on  my  lips;  what  a  sunburst 
there  was  in  the  room  when,  still  unsatisfied.  Miss  Clarke 
turned  the  pointer  toward  me  and  the  right  answer  came 
tumbling  out.  Correspondingly  dark  were  my  moments  of 
failure;  their  memory  rankled  for  days. 

Once  she  called  me  third  or  fourth  to  the  blackboard  to 
draw  a  circle  around  a  triangle.  I  came  forward  in  a  sickly 
panic,  with  not  an  idea  in  my  head.  I  picked  up  the  ruler 
and  compass  from  her  table  and  turned  my  back  on  the 
class;  then  somehow  my  trembling  hands  executed,  quite 
of  themselves,  the  bisection  of  the  two  sides,  extended  the 
perpendiculars  to  the  meeting  point,  and  drew  the  circle. 
I  had  done  it!  I  made  blindly  for  my  seat  and  heard  Miss 



Clarke  say,  in  a  pleased  voice:  "You'd  better  leave  the 
ruler  and  compass  with  me."  But  the  culmination  was  yet 
to  come.  Dazed  as  I  was,  I  had  wit  enough  to  hand  her  the 
compass  with  the  point  toward  me,  and  her  "Thank  you" 
was  for  that  not  less  than  for  my  performance  at  the  black- 
board. Oh,  the  flush  that  went  through  me,  sweeping  from 
the  roots  of  my  hair  to  my  toes!  What  are  Nobel  Prizes  and 
peerages  beside  such  triumphs? 

I  cannot  judge  whether  Miss  Clarke  was  an  unusually 
gifted  teacher,  one  of  those  blessed  spirits  whose  lives  are 
one  long,  obscure,  irreplaceable  service  to  generation  after 
generation  of  school  children.  She  was  not  wildly  popular, 
like  Mr.  Fisher,  nor  unpopular,  like  Miss  Porrit,  but 
popularity  is  not  the  measure  of  a  teacher's  worth.  School- 
mates with  whom  I  have  talked  about  her  in  later  years 
do  not  recall  her  as  a  magic  influence.  I  can  only  say  that 
but  for  her  I  would  probably  have  grown  up  an  illiterate. 

It  was  a  great  moment  for  me  when  the  news  of  my 
transformation  reached  my  home.  I  was  vindicated;  I  had 
proved  in  my  person  that  one  could  be  at  the  top  of  the 
class  without  taking  off  time  from  "the  hills,"  football, 
cricket,  and  little  fishes.  But  such  crowing  as  I  felt  myself 
entitled  to  was  soon  choked  off.  If  I  wasn't  such  a  dolt  after 
all,  why  didn't  I  do  better  at  cheder,  reports  from  which 
also  reached  home,  delivered  in  person  by  the  rebhe  him- 
self? And  again,  if  I  did  so  well  at  school  without  giving  up 
"the  hills,"  how  much  better  would  I  not  do  if  I  gave  them 
up?  Further,  how  unbecoming  it  was  for  a  boy  with  a  good 
head  on  his  shoulders  to  behave  like  a  young  heathen.  The 
injustice  of  it!  I  would  have  been  just  as  well  off  at  home 
if  I  had  remained  at  the  bottom  of  the  class;  no,  better, 
because  before  this  new  and  outrageous  principle  of 
noblesse  oblige  intruded  into  my  life  I  had  been  more  or 
less  adjusted  to  the  status  of  a  dolt.  It  is  some  measure  of 



my  adoration  of  Miss  Clarke  that  I  did  not  hold  her 
accountable  for  the  backfire  from  my  sudden  and  un- 
expected eminence,  or  so  much  as  dream  of  returning  to  a 
more  comfortable  ignominy. 

Miss  Clarke  lived  in  rooms  above  Chanot's  violin  shop, 
right  opposite  Uncle  Moritz.  I  found  that  out  when  she 
asked  me  once  to  carry  a  parcel  home  for  her,  and  gave 
me  a  penny  for  my  trouble.  She  slipped  the  coin  so  quickly 
into  my  hand  that  I  hadn't  time  to  protest,  and  when  I  got 
downstairs  I  was  overwhelmed  with  shame.  Didn't  she 
know  that  for  her  I  would  have  lugged  sackloads  of  bricks 
to  the  ends  of  the  earth  and  accounted  myself  her  debtor? 
I  didn't  spend  that  penny.  I  kept  it  in  a  wooden  box  until 
it  somehow  disappeared. 

It  was  Miss  Clarke  who  in  the  second  year  suggested 
that  I  try  for  a  free-tuition  scholarship  at  the  Manchester 
Municipal  Secondary  School;  suggested  rather  than  urged 
because  she  knew  we  were  poor,  and  I  would  have  to  win 
what  was  called  an  Exhibition  as  well  as  a  scholarship.  The 
Exhibition  carried  with  it  five  pounds  for  the  first  year 
and  would  offset  part  of  my  forfeited  earnings.  My  parents 
were  hesitant;  they  suspected  that  I  had  begun  to  use  my 
head  too  late;  besides,  "the  hills"  were  still  there,  and  the 
penny  weeklies,  habits  and  compulsions  I  could  not  shake 
off.  I  was  hesitant  too,  fearing  the  disgrace  of  failure.  I 
would  have  felt  more  confident  if  I  could  have  had  Miss 
Clarke  as  my  examiner,  not,  however,  because  I  would 
have  expected  her  to  favor  me  unfairly.  I  wanted  desper- 
ately to  please  her  by  winning,  but  I  needed  to  please  her 
face  to  face,  immediately,  not  indirectly  and  across  an 
interval  of  suspense.  I  wanted  to  see  her  dark,  somewhat 
severe  and  old-maidish  face  light  up  at  my  correct  answers, 
while  she  glanced  away  with  a  little  smile  directed  at  some 
invisible  witness  with   the   unspoken  comment:    "I   can 



usually  rely  on  him."  The  approval  of  strangers,  assuming 
I  could  get  it,  was  insipid  by  comparison,  and  I  went  forth 
on  the  fateful  morning  as  if  to  be  sentenced  rather  than 
examined.  It  was  a  sensation  with  which  I  was  to  become 
dolorously  familiar. 

My  miscellaneous  reading  included,  among  others,  Hans 
Christian  Andersen,  Samuel  Smiles,  Susan  Coolidge,  the 
Grimm  Brothers,  Rider  Haggard,  Jules  Verne,  and  Rhoda 
Broughton.  Of  individual  books  I  recall  most  clearly  What 
Katy  Did,  What  Katy  Did  Next,  John  Halifax,  Gentleman, 
The  Lamplighter,  Cranford,  King  Solomon's  Mines,  The 
Hero  of  Crompton  School,  and  Cometh  Up  As  a  Flower. 
I  wept  over  Cometh  Up  As  a  Flower  and  John  Halifax, 
Gentleman  and  The  Lamplighter.  Pictures  and  phrases 
still  stick  in  my  mind;  some  I  can  assign  to  their  proper 
place,  some  are  homeless;  "Rapunzel,  Rapunzel,  let  down 
your  hair,"  and  "Eternity,"  from  Hans  Christian  Ander- 
sen; little  Ursula  (?)  cutting  her  hand  at  the  door  as  she 
struggled  with  the  stern  old  servant  woman  who  would 
not  let  her  give  a  piece  of  bread  to  little  John  Halifax, 
starving  in  the  snow;  Nadin,  "the  cowardly  bully,"  guilty 
of  the  Peterloo  massacre  of  peaceful  Manchester  workers — 
that  was  in  The  Lamplighter;  Allan  Quatermain  in  his 
duel  to  the  death  with  the  Zulu  chief,  in  King  Solomon's 
Mines;  but  whose  was  the  kettle  "merrily  wobbling  on  the 
hob"?  And  who  was  it  threw  a  sack  of  grain  out  of 
the  upper-floor  window  into  the  river  rather  than  let  the 
hungry  villagers  rob  him  of  it?  I  have  learned  not  to  look 
into  those  books  when  chance  brings  them  my  way;  I 
shrink  from  anything  that  threatens  to  spoil  the  sweet 
memory  of  my  boyhood  reading.  It  hurt  me  to  find  in  one 
of  Zangwill's  essays  a  take-off  on  Cometh  Up  As  a  Flower, 
which  he  re-entitled,  cruelly,  Boometh  As  a  Bumble  Bee; 
and  when  I  was  in  the  country  of  King  Solomon's  Mines 



and  saw  the  Zimbabwe  ruins  and  the  primitive  kraals  of 
the  Zulus  (they  were  a  shockingly  peaceful  lot),  I  refused  to 
associate  them  with  Rider  Haggard. 

The  juvenile  section  of  the  Free  Library  on  Cheetham 
Hill  Road  did  not  lend  out  books  in  those  days;  you  had  to 
read  them  on  the  premises,  and  I  remember  happy  hours 
I  spent  there,  though  I  cannot  for  the  life  of  me  imagine 
where  I  fitted  them  in.  We  sat  on  hard  benches  at  long 
tables,  and  the  librarian  was  a  small,  bandy-legged  red- 
whiskered  man,  Mr.  Jones,  whom  we  called  Puggy 
Whiskers.  The  room  was  below  ground  level,  and  boys 
would  sneak  down  the  steps,  open  the  door,  yell:  "Puggy 
Whiskers,  your  mamma  wants  you  for  kreplach,"  and 
scuttle  up  the  stairs,  laughing  like  hyenas.  Mr.  Jones  would 
turn  as  red  as  his  beard,  his  face  would  work  spasmodically, 
and  he  would  start  up  as  if  a  pin  had  been  jabbed  into  his 
back.  Sometimes  he  lurked  at  the  door  in  the  hope  of 
laying  his  hands  on  one  of  the  miscreants,  but  always  in 
vain;  the  wretched  man  did  not  know,  apparently,  that  he 
could  be  watched  from  the  ground-level  windows,  and  the 
assault  on  the  peace  would  be  made  only  when  he  was  be- 
hind his  desk,  from  which  he  could  never  get  to  the  door 
fast  enough.  He  once  asked  me:  "What  are  they  shouting? 
What  is  kreplak}"  I  told  him  that  kreplach  were  patties 
filled  with  meat.  He  shook  his  head  in  disbelief;  he  must 
have  read  into  the  word  a  meaning  profoundly  offensive 
to  himself  and  his  mother,  who  was  probably  dead.  Forty 
years  ago  there  was  in  the  Bronx  Zoo  a  gorilla  called  Baldy, 
and  people  used  to  tease  it  for  the  pleasure  of  watching  its 
gibbering  rages.  Baldy  reminded  me  of  Puggy  Whiskers; 
but  I  laughed  neither  at  Puggy  Whiskers  nor  at  Baldy.  In 
my  Puggy  Whiskers  days  I  was  annoyed  by  the  interruptions 
and  in  my  Baldy  days  I  was  indignant  at  the  cruelty  of  the 



I  have  told  how,  on  winning  the  scholarship  and  Exhibi- 
tion, I  dropped  the  boys  of  St,  Jim's  and  of  Greyfriars  as 
abruptly,  ungratefully,  and  priggishly  as  Prince  Hal 
dropped  Falstaff  and  Poins  on  becoming  Henry  the  Fifth. 
"Never  came  reformation  in  a  flood/With  such  a  heady 
current."  Now,  the  truth  is  that  I  have  always  found  it 
hard  to  swallow  Shakespeare's  story  of  that  complete 
dramatic  conversion.  There  must  have  been,  I  argue, 
twinges  of  regret,  twilight  nostalgias,  even  an  occasional 
visit,  a  la  Haroun-al-Raschid,  to  Eastcheap  ale  houses 
where  he  had  not  been  seen  before.  That  conversation 
with  the  simple  soldier  Bates  during  the  night  before 
Agincourt — does  it  not  prove  that  Henry  remained  thor- 
oughly at  home  with  the  common  people,  and  mingled 
with  them  so  naturally  that  no  suspicion  of  his  identity 
ever  crossed  their  minds?  I  therefore  will  not,  on  reflection, 
take  an  oath  that  I  never  again  peeped  into  the  penny 
weeklies  for  a  glimpse  of  the  low  company  I  had  forsworn, 
though  the  temptation  did  grow  less  as  I  found  the  same 
intellectual  and  moral  values  in  Kipling  and  Henty  and 
Tennyson.  Nor  did  I,  in  spite  of  my  vow,  immediately 
abjure  "the  hills,"  and  football,  and  cricket,  though  their 
attraction  did  taper  off  as  new  influences  came  into  my  life. 

On  the  day  we  got  the  great  news,  my  father  impulsively 
gave  me  a  shilling,  which  I  accepted  with  stupefaction  and 
alarm.  The  vastness  of  the  sum  impressed  on  me  the 
solemnity  of  the  occasion,  and  played  some  part  in  re- 
shaping my  outlook  on  life.  I  spread  the  shilling  as  far  as 
it  would  go  on  second-hand,  third-hand,  and  fourth-hand 
books,  among  them  two  tattered  Blatchford  pamphlets  and 
a  coverless  astronomy  primer  almost  as  old  as  its  subject 
matter.  Why  Blatchford?  Why  astronomy?  The  answer  is 
the  cadaverous  young  Shudehill  bookseller,  into  whose 
shop  I  stumbled  more  or  less  by  accident,  and  whose  name 



I  have  completely  forgotten.  God  rest  his  evangelical  soul; 
he  has  his  share  in  my  life's  history.  What  if  he  had  been 
of  a  religious  rather  than  a  rationalist  turn  of  mind?  AVhat 
if  he  had  been  neither  and  had  sold  me  a  job  lot  of  travel 
books?  I  am  quite  sure  that  in  my  suddenly  aroused  passion 
for  self-improvement  I  would  have  read  them  with  the 
same  fervor  and  perhaps  with  the  same  lasting  effect.  As  it 
was,  Blatchford  and  astronomy  set  their  stamp  on  me  in 
the  years  that  followed. 

I  did  not  become  an  avowed  socialist  and  atheist  im- 
mediately; the  words  were  so  abhorrent  in  our  world  that 
I  censored  them  in  my  own  mind.  I  accepted  all  the  arg-u- 
ments,  I  rejected  the  implication  of  their  sum.  Some 
months  still  had  to  pass;  I  had  to  become  a  member  of  our 
high-school  debating  society.  I  had  to  discover  that  I  had 
the  gift  of  the  gab,  and  learn  the  tingling  delight  of  stand- 
ing before  an  audience  and  delivering  myself  of  daring 

It  would  have  been  better  for  me  not  to  have  been 
provided  with  an  audience  at  that  age.  The  debating 
society  developed  the  show-off  in  me;  it  encouraged  the 
quick  retort  and  the  muddled  idea.  Nor,  in  spite  of  my 
affection  for  them,  can  I  think  with  gratitude  of  the  foolish 
people  who  arranged  street-corner  meeetings  for  me.  They 
were  decent  and  earnest  and,  with  all  their  revolutionary 
slogans,  humble;  they  meant  well  and  they  did  me  no 
good.  The  responsibility  of  indulgent  adults  in  the  spread 
of  juvenile  delinquency  is  nowhere  clearer  than  in  the 
case  of  boy  and  girl  orators  and  evangelists. 

This  was  the  time  when  the  itiner  conflict  set  in  between 
my  two  worlds,  the  Jewish  and  the  non-Jewish,  so  that  I 
quarreled  with  myself  as  well  as  with  the  community.  The 
Tom  Merrys  and  Harry  Whartons  had  had  nothing  to 
say  to  my  Jewish  world;    Blatchford  had  much  to  say, 



though  indirectly,  for  I  do  not  recall  that  he  expressed  any 
views  on  the  Jewish  question.  As  a  socialist,  science  popu- 
larizer,  and  atheist,  he  taught  me  to  see  Jewishness  as  an 
"effete"  (I  loved  that  word)  and  obstructive  phenomenon, 
an  obstacle  in  the  path  of  human  progress.  It  was,  there- 
fore, "Down  with  Jewishness!" — though  of  course  not  with 
individual  Jews,  except  in  their  capacity  as  capitalists, 
lackies  of  capitalism,  or  disseminators  of  religion,  that 
opium  of  the  masses.  There  were  as  yet  no  real  capitalists 
in  my  community;  there  were,  I  suppose,  a  number  of 
lackies  of  capitalism,  and  practically  everyone  was  a  dis- 
seminator of  religion.  Thus,  there  was  no  one  to  benefit  by 
my  tolerant  distinction.  My  rebbe,  and  others,  logically  de- 
nounced me  as  a  little  anti-Semite;  if  they  had  been 
familiar  with  the  jargon  they  might  have  added:  "Objec- 

Without  knowing  it,  I  happened  to  be  following  good 
Biblical  precedent.  "Have  I  any  pleasure  at  all  that  the 
wicked  should  die?  saith  the  Lord  God;  and  not  rather 
that  he  should  return  from  his  ways  and  live?"  But  it  must 
be  admitted  that  in  the  Bible  it  is  often  difficult  to  dis- 
tinguish between  God's  hatred  of  sin  and  His  hatred  of 
sinners;  and  where  His  example  is  so  confusing,  how  can 
we  expect  ordinary  mortals  to  keep  separate  their  dislike 
of  Jewishness  and  their  benevolence  toward  Jews? 

It  was  true  that  I  didn't  like  being  a  Jew;  on  the  other 
hand,  I  didn't  know  how  to  be  anything  else.  Nor  could  I 
keep  away  from  Jewish  life.  Throughout  my  high-school 
and  college  years  I  was  forever  joining,  leaving,  and  re- 
joining Jewish  youth  groups,  Zionist,  cultural,  and 
dramatic,  and  during  membership  periods  I  preached 
socialism,  atheism,  and  assimilation  to  my  fellow-members. 
I  have  seen  this  variety  of  psychological  muddle  in  others 
— ^Jews  who  satisfy  and  accentuate  their  Jewishness  by  de- 



voting  their  lives  to  the  demolition  of  Jewishness  in  others. 

I  was  a  patchwork  of  contradictions.  I  pointed  my  accus- 
ing finger  at  the  well-to-do  and  was  ashamed  of  myself  and 
my  parents  for  not  being  of  them;  I  despised  Kipling  the 
Sahib  and  would  have  liked  my  parents  to  be  English 
enough  to  be  thrilled  like  me  by  Gunga  Din,  that  expres- 
sion of  British  imperialism  on  the  gutter  level;  I  had  fits  of 
patriotism  (Blatchford  was  himself  something  of  a  jingo, 
had  been  a  soldier,  and  had  written  Kiplingesque  stories 
of  army  life),  but  my  people's  admiration  for  England  was 
nevertheless  an  abject  thing  in  my  eyes;  under  duress  I 
took  part  in  school  sports,  and  was  irked  because  my 
parents  were  unmoved  by  the  glad  tidings  that  "our  side 
won";  under  no  duress,  I  played  cricket  with  schoolmates 
and  didn't  want  my  parents  to  know;  I  was  always  on  the 
side  of  the  oppressed,  but  the  Jews  with  their  obstinate 
insistence  on  being  Jewish  were  responsible  for  anti- 
Semitism;  I  was  a  pacifist,  but  the  pacifism  of  my  people 
was  one  of  its  outstanding  defects,  and  my  father  got  no 
credit  for  being  an  exception;  as  a  pacifist  I  grinned  at 
myself  for  marching  joyously  in  the  Jewish  Lads'  Brigade 
to  the  stirring  rhythms  of  bugle  and  drum  (what  fun  it 
was!),  but  I  was  wounded  when  my  parents  smiled. 

All  this  time,  at  high  school,  as  well  as  later  at  college, 
I  read  hugely,  I  addressed  socialist  meetings,  I  worked  dur- 
ing elections,  and  I  alternated  between  high  exaltation  and 
sullen  despair.  Life  was  a  marvelous  gift,  life  was  an  ob- 
scene cruelty;  mankind  was  the  highest  product  of  the 
cosmic  purpose,  mankind  was  a  maggoty  crawling  on  the 
surface  of  an  obscure  planet  doomed  to  early  extinction; 
I  was  a  free-willed  participant  in  the  meaningful  and  end- 
less process  of  creation,  I  was  a  comical  little  contraption 
emitting  sound  waves  into  the  void.  The  moral  law  was  a 
built-in  feature  of  the  universe — this  was  crystal-clear  to 



me  in  my  mystical  moments;  the  moral  law  was  a  wretched 
superstition — this  was  crystal-clear  to  me  in  my  materialist 
moments.  In  its  bourgeois  form,  the  moral  law  was  also  a 
capitalistic  device  for  the  befuddlement  of  the  working 
classes,  while  in  its  general  form,  as  a  superstitious  heritage 
handed  down  from  primitive  societies,  it  turned  my  high- 
falutin  speeches  on  liberty,  equality,  and  fraternity  into 
the  rantings  of  a  comedian. 

In  my  moods  of  despair  I  had  no  argument  against  any 
form  of  immorality;  the  universe  was  indifferent  to  love 
and  hate.  Theoretically  I  was  ready  to  lie,  cheat,  steal,  kill; 
to  the  extent  that  I  did  not,  I  was  a  weakling  and  a  fool; 
and  I  was  angry  with  myself  because  this  limitless  permis- 
siveness of  the  universe  made  me  wretched  instead  of 
happy.  At  the  same  time,  I  wanted  the  fat  aldermen  who 
were  guzzling  turtle  soup  while  factory  girls  were  starving, 
to  be  in  the  wrong;  but  how  could  they  be  in  the  wrong  if 
there  was  neither  right  nor  wrong?  It  was  exasperating 
beyond  words  that  fat  aldermen  should  in  their  stupidity 
have  hit  on  the  sensible  course  while  enjoying  the  extra 
bonus  of  thinking  themselves  morally  in  the  right! 

My  attempts  to  discuss  these  matters  with  Ellen  Wilkin- 
son and  Walton-Newbold  and  other  fellow-socialists  ran 
into  a  blank  wall.  Their  formula  was:  "Morality  is  based 
on  self-interest.  If  everyone  were  immoral,  society  would 
disintegrate,  and  where  would  you  be?"  My  answer  was: 
"My  being  immoral,  especially  if  I'm  clever  enough  to 
conceal  it,  will  make  only  the  slightest  dent  in  society,  but 
it  will  give  me  a  tremendous  personal  advantage."  Where- 
upon they  said:  "You're  talking  like  a  lousy  bourgeois,  not 
like  a  good  socialist,"  and  my  answer  was:  "I'm  as  good  a 
socialist  as  you."  So  I  was,  or  believed  myself  to  be,  in  my 
other  moods.  It  would  have  relieved  me  if  they  had  con- 
fessed to  sharing  my  misgivings;  as  it  was,  I  suspected  that 


they  did,  and  were  secretive  about  it,  in  which  they  were 
being  cleverer  than  I.  That,  I  said  to  myself,  isn't  right  of 
them — but  what  am  I  talking  about  if  there's  neither  right 
nor  wrong? 

At  bottom  I  knew  that  my  moral  scruples  derived  from 
my  upbringing,  which  had  been  Jewish,  and  this  was  one 
of  the  roots  of  my  anti-Jewishness.  I  had  been  made  a  fool 
of  by  Jewishness,  as  I  would  have  been  by  Christianity  if 
my  upbringing  had  been  Christian. 

It  all  sounds  silly  and  adolescent,  but  in  substance  the 
problems  are  fundamental;  the  discussion  has  been  going 
on  for  ages,  it  will  go  on  as  long  as  men  think. 


®  133  ® 



i  s 

i  Ozir  Shtetl  Roots  t 

i  $ 

o  W  6 


JL  LOST  interest  in  my  father's  readings  at  about  the  time 
when  I  could  have  stayed  up  as  long  as  I  wanted — an  early 
lesson  in  the  illusions  of  hope.  I  had  no  patience,  either, 
with  the  homely  philosophizing  of  the  grown-ups.  Won- 
derfully and  fortunately  enough  I  retained  my  partiality 
for  my  mother's  conversation,  a  circumstance  which  intro- 
duces a  puzzle  into  the  development  of  my  Yiddish. 

If  I  had  let  the  language  fall  into  disuse  at  the  age  of 
thirteen,  it  would  have  been  natural  for  me  to  have  had 
only  a  childish  command  of  it  at  nineteen,  when  I  met 
Uncle  Berel  again.  But  my  mother  spoke  a  rich  folk 
Yiddish,  and  I  enjoyed  listening  to  her.  Why  did  I  have 
to  relearn  my  Yiddish  in  America?  Where  was  the  block? 

It  is  barely  possible  that  I  did  not  really  follow  my 
mother's  Yiddish  word  for  word  and  phrase  for  phrase,  but 
grasped  the  meaning  of  the  sentences  and  recalled  words 
and  phrases  in  later  years.  A  second  explanation,  which 
could  include  the  first,  is  equally  plausible.  I  repressed  my 
Yiddish  except  as  a  channel  of  communication  with  my 
mother;  I  wanted  to  demonstrate  my  high-principled  dis- 
approval of  what  Yiddish  stood  for — ignorance,  backward- 
ness, poverty,  superstition.  My  mother's  Yiddish,  however. 


was  exempt  from  these  charges.  She  disinfected  it,  as  it 
were,  by  her  personality  and  her  tolerance.  She  was 
troubled,  of  course,  to  hear  me  called  a  socialist  and  an 
unbeliever;  it  saddened  her  that  I  wasn't  going  to  be  a 
" Kreiserrahbiner" ;  but  she  took  it  in  the  spirit  of  "we  can't 
have  everything,"  which  was  remarkable  in  one  who  had 
so  little. 

My  revolt  from  Jewishness  was  abrupt,  my  return  to  it 
proceeded  by  stages.  I  was  becoming  dissatisfied  with  the 
contradictions  and  spiritual  barrenness  of  materialism,  and 
it  was  difficult  to  hit  on  an  alternative,  I  was  looking  for 
roots;  it  was  inconceivable  at  first  that  I  could  find  them 
in  such  petty  things  as  my  people  and  its  past;  and  as  if  their 
pettiness  was  not  enough,  they  were  steeped  in  religion, 
that  most  lamentable  and  calamitous  of  human  errors. 

Two  episodes  out  of  that  time  played  for  me,  in  reverse 
and  less  violently,  the  roles  of  the  Shudehill  bookseller 
and  Robert  Blatchford.  There  was  a  Hebrew  teacher  in 
Manchester,  Isaiah  Wassilevsky,  whom  Louis  Golding  has 
romanticized  as  Mr.  Emanuel.  I  used  to  frequent  his  house 
during  my  relapses  into  Jewish  youth  groups,  and  I  met 
Chaim  Weizmann  there,  though  not  for  the  first  time.  But 
it  is  not  the  meeting  with  Weizmann  that  concerns  me  at 
this  point.  Toward  the  end  of  my  college  days,  Wassilevsky 
tried  to  interest  me  in  the  Yiddish  poetry  of  Chaim 
Nachman  Bialik.  Bialik  is  primarily  a  Hebrew  poet,  a  very 
great  one  (I  shall  tell  later  of  my  contacts  with  him),  but 
he  has  written  magnificently  in  Yiddish,  too.  My  Hebrew 
being  hopeless,  Wassilevsky  appealed  to  my  imperfect 
Yiddish,  with  some  success.  I  was  vaguely  stirred;  there 
came  through  to  me  an  echoing  of  great  powers;  I  was 
moved  to  suspect  that  my  contempt  for  the  language  was 
based  on  ignorance,  which  in  turn  was  based  on  willful- 
ness. But  I  was  less  susceptible  at  nineteen  than  at  thirteen. 



And  I  had  a  vested  interest  to  protect — my  stance  and  my 
reputation.  The  inoculation  took,  but  manifested  itself 

The  second  episode  was  the  appearance  in  Manchester 
of  the  Yiddish  actor  Maurice  Moskowitz  and  his  troupe, 
when  I  served  for  a  week  as  guest  dramatic  critic  of  a  local 
daily,  The  Despatch.  The  invitation  came  through  a  social- 
ist acquaintance  I  had  on  the  paper.  He  asked  me  if  I 
wanted  to  get  free  passes  and  "make  a  few  bob  on  the  side." 
He  did  not  ask  me  how  much  Yiddish  I  knew,  it  was 
enough  for  him  that  I  was  a  Jew.  Another  paper  appointed 
Neville  Laski,  brother  of  the  more  famous  Harold.  Their 
father  was  an  alderman  and  one-time  mayor  of  Salford, 
twin  city  to  Manchester.  I  imagine  that  young  Laski's 
Yiddish  was  even  poorer  than  mine.  What  the  plays  did  for 
him  I  cannot  say;  on  me  two  of  them  made  a  startling  im- 
pression quite  unrelated  to  my  ephemeral  role  as  dramatic 
critic.  They  were  Strindberg's  The  Father  and  Tolstoi's 
The  Living  Corpse.  Strindberg  and  Tolstoi  in  Yiddish! 
Why,  they  were  highbrow  (the  word  had  not  yet  been 
coined)  even  in  English;  and  here  were  my  Yiddish- 
speaking  Jews  taking  it  all  in  with  rapt  attention.  This 
was  something  to  be  looked  into. 

The  snobbery  of  it!  What  happened  when  I  got  around 
to  the  study  of  Yiddish  was  that  I  fell  in  love  with  it,  and  of 
course  not  simply  because  one  could  be  highbrow  in  it. 
The  lovableness  of  a  language  lies  in  the  intimacy  of  its 
relationship  to  a  regionalist  life-form;  the  closer  the  in- 
timacy, the  more  lovable  the  language,  and  Yiddish  is  so 
much  the  alter  ego  of  Yiddish-speaking  Jewry,  it  is  so 
perfect — and  indispensable — a  replica  of  that  Jewry's  life- 
experience,  that  one  can  hardly  know  the  one  without  the 
other.  One  gets  out  of  translations  from  the  Yiddish  a 
smaller  proportion  of  the  essential  content  than  out  of 


translations  from  French  or  German,  or  for  that  matter 
Hebrew — to  mention  the  languages  with  which  I  am 

Yiddish  led  me  back  to  my  people  via  the  Shtetl,  the 
Jewish  village  community  of  Eastern  Europe.  Without 
Yiddish  I  would  not  have  read  Sholom  Aleichem  and  Yal 
Peretz  and  Mendelle  Mocher  Sforim.  There  were  few 
translations  half  a  century  ago,  and  these,  like  the  many 
translations  that  have  appeared  since,  my  own  included, 
are  at  best  only  good  enough  to  demonstrate  that  the 
original  must  be  much  more  interesting.  They  do  not 
tempt  one  to  a  second  reading,  whereas  the  originals  can 
be — and  were — read  over  and  over  again.  Now,  it  was 
obvious  to  me  even  as  a  boy  that  my  Manchester  com- 
munity was  a  Rumanian  Shtetl  transplanted  into  the  West- 
ern world;  but  what  the  Shtetl  had  been  like  in  situ  I  could 
never  have  learned  without  reading  the  classics  and  with- 
out being  at  home  in  the  language  of  Shtetl  survivors  in 
America  and  elsewhere. 

Yiddish,  then,  was  my  gateway  into  Jewish  life,  and 
once  I  was  inside,  Hebrew  followed  of  itself.  True,  I  be- 
came a  "Zionist"  before  I  learned  Yiddish,  but  it  was  an 
empty  thing  (as  it  still  is  with  many  "Zionists"),  a  gesture, 
psychological  rather  than  spiritual.  If  I  turned  to  the 
Bible  at  the  same  time,  that  too  was  only  a  self-assertion 
and  a  declaration  of  purpose.  For  a  long  time  I  thought  of 
myself  as  an  atheist,  for  whom  Isaiah  and  Micah  and  Amos 
were  moralists  and  sociologists,  magnificent  in  style  and 
inspiringly  on  the  right  track,  though  for  the  wrong  reason. 
That  the  Prophets  were  more  than  moralists,  that  Zionism 
was  more  than  the  demand  for  a  Jewish  homeland,  that 
"Thus  saith  the  Lord"  was  more  than  a  superstitious 
ejaculation — all  this  grew  on  me  slowly. 

But  why  should  I  think  of  the  Shtetl  as  the  embodiment 



of  Exile  Jewishness?  Why  not  the  large  Jewish  communi- 
ties, cities  and  mothers  in  Israel,  with  their  synagogues, 
academies,  and  institutions?  The  answer  lies  in  the  supe- 
rior cohesiveness  of  the  Shtetl,  which  stood  up  as  an  im- 
pregnable citadel  of  Jewishness.  The  Jewish  city  had  more 
Jewish  life  quantitatively,  but  it  also  had  its  large  segment 
of  defection.  In  the  city  Jews  were  exposed  to  worldly 
opportunity  and,  very  often,  an  attractive  non-Jewish  cul- 
ture; in  both  these  respects,  the  Shtetl  was  secure.  There 
was,  again,  a  crucial  difference  between  Macheen  as  the 
Rumanian  Shtetl  and  my  Manchester  community  as  a 
transplanted  Shtetl.  Macheen-in-Rumania  had  despised  the 
surrounding  civilization;  Macheen-in-Manchester  had  ad- 
mired it.  The  insulation  of  Macheen-in-Manchester  from 
its  environment  was  uneven,  stronger  at  some  points, 
weaker  at  others,  differing  also  from  person  to  person. 
With  my  parents  and  my  rebbe  it  was  very  strong,  with  my 
uncles  Leon  and  Moritz  weaker;  and  though  at  its  weakest 
it  was  the  Shtetl  spirit  that  still  dominated,  there  was  no 
comparison  with  the  dominion  of  the  Shtetl  spirit  in 

With  all  this,  it  is  essential  to  know  that  the  Jewish 
attitude  toward  the  Shtetl  was  and  is  ambivalent.  On  the 
one  hand  it  is  remembered  sentimentally.  From  just  below 
the  horizon — historically  speaking,  the  Shtetl  died  only 
yesterday — it  sends  up  a  nostalgic  glow  for  its  survivors 
and  for  those  who  have  received  the  tradition  from  parents 
and  grandparents.  It  is  pictured  as  one  of  the  rare  and 
happy  breathing-spells  of  the  Exile,  the  nearest  thing  to  a 
home  from  home  that  the  Jews  have  ever  known.  On  the 
other  hand,  it  is  recalled  with  a  grimace  of  distaste.  The 
Shtetlach!  Those  forlorn  little  settlements  in  a  vast  and 
hostile  wilderness,  isolated  alike  from  Jewish  and  non- 
Jewish  centers  of  civilization,  their  tenure  precarious,  their 


Structure  ramshackle,  their  spirit  squalid.  Who  would  want 
to  live  in  one  of  them? 

The  temptation  of  the  sociologist  is  to  strike  an  objec- 
tive pose,  to  say  judicially  that  the  truth  no  doubt  lies 
somewhere  between  the  two  extremes.  But  this  is  a  case 
in  which  the  mechanically  judicial  is  a  falsification;  for  the 
peculiarity  of  the  Shtetl  was  precisely  that  the  truth  lay, 
not  somewhere  toward  the  middle,  but  only  in  the  two 
extremes.  The  Shtetl  (I  capitalize  it  everywhere  because  it 
was  a  personality)  symbolizes  all  Jewish  life  in  the  Exile; 
not  a  mixture  which  fuses  into  gray,  but  a  checkered  pat- 
tern of  the  exalted  and  the  ignominious. 

In  The  Three,  which  is  the  usual  manner  of  referring 
to  Mendelle  Mocher  Sforim,  Yal  Peretz,  and  Sholom 
Aleichem,  it  is  the  first  who  reproduces  in  sharpest  con- 
trast the  extreme  of  Shtetl  life;  but  in  this  he  and  the 
others  of  the  triad,  as  well  as  most  Yiddish  writers,  were  in 
the  ancient  tradition.  No  other  national  literature  has  the 
schizophrenic  quality  of  the  Jewish,  from  the  Bible  on. 
The  Jewish  people  loves  and  hates  itself,  admires  and 
despises  itself  with  pathological  intensity.  According  to 
mood,  it  is  God-selected  and  God-rejected.  Certainly  no 
other  people  robbed  of  its  homeland,  to  which  it  had  been 
directed  by  God  Himself,  and  sent  into  exile  by  nations 
no  better  than  itself,  would  go  on  repeating  for  two  mil- 
lennia: "Serves  us  right" — ^which  is  the  meaning  of  the 
prayer:  "Because  of  our  sins  we  were  exiled  from  our 
land."  But  then,  no  other  people  goes  on  existing  for  two 
thousand  years  after  expulsion  and  dispersion;  and  no 
other  people  associates  its  ultimate  redemption  with  the 
destiny  of  the  human  species  as  a  whole. 

In  the  final  reckoning,  however,  the  Shtetl,  like  the  lost 
Jewish  homeland  of  long  ago,  is  seen  lovingly.  Today 
Jews  feel  with  a  special  poignancy  about  it  because  it  was 



done  to  death  in  their  own  time  and,  as  it  were,  before 
their  very  eyes.  The  Shtetl  is  a  martyr,  and  if  one  does  not 
go  to  a  cemetery  to  dwell  on  the  imperfections  of  the 
departed,  neither  does  one  remember  in  a  predominantly 
critical  spirit  a  martyr  whose  last  cries  of  agony  still  quiver 
in  the  air.  Our  ambivalence  toward  the  Shtetl  is  there, 
we  cannot  rid  ourselves  of  an  immemorial  national  habit, 
but  it  is  strongly  modified  by  a  shift  toward  affirmation. 

Some  of  the  nostalgia  clinging  to  the  Shtetl  is  undoubt- 
edly connected  with  its  rural  setting,  but  this  too  in  the 
paradoxical  Jewish  way.  The  Shtetl  was  in  the  countryside 
but  not  of  it,  as  far  as  Jews  were  concerned;  the  earth  was 
the  Lord's,  but  the  fullness  thereof  was  for  the  non-Jews. 
For  the  Jew,  the  fields  and  forests  and  open  spaces  evoked, 
with  their  beauty,  echoes  of  a  very  different  time  and  place. 
His  nature  festivals  were  geared  to  the  Palestinian  climate 
and  calendar;  he  celebrated  regularly  a  harvest  which  he 
and  his  forebears  had  not  gathered  for  sixty  or  seventy 
generations;  he  prayed  for  the  "former"  and  the  "latter" 
rains,  phenomena  of  a  subtropical  climate,  indifferent  to 
the  needs  of  his  neighbors,  whose  prayers,  more  practical 
than  his,  pointed  to  a  local  agricultural  cycle.  And  Nature 
as  a  whole  was  a  rather  trivial  business  to  the  Shtetl  Jew. 

Mendelle  tells  us  of  the  education  of  a  Jewish  boy: 
"Little  Shlomo  had  accumulated  long  before  his  bar 
mitzvah  as  much  experience  as  if  he  were  a  Methuselah. 
Where  hadn't  he  been  and  what  hadn't  he  seen!  Meso- 
potamia, the  Tigris  and  Euphrates  rivers,  Persia  and 
Shushan,  the  capital  of  Ahasuerus's  empire,  Egypt  and  the 
Nile,  the  deserts  and  the  mountains.  It  was  an  experience 
which  the  children  of  no  other  people  ever  knew  .  .  .  He 
could  not  tell  you  a  thing  about  Russia,  about  Poland, 
about  Lithuania,  and  their  peoples,  laws,  kings,  politicians 
.  .  .  But  you  just  ask  him  about  Og,  King  of  Bashan,  and 


Sihon,  King  of  the  Amorites,  and  Nebuchadnezzar,  King 
of  Babylonia!  Ask  him  about  the  Jordan!  He  knew  the 
people  who  lived  in  tents  and  spoke  Hebrew  or  Aramaic; 
the  people  who  rode  on  mules  or  camels  and  drank  water 
out  of  pitchers  ,  .  .  He  knew  nothing  concerning  the  fields 
about  him,  about  rye,  wheat,  potatoes,  and  where  his  bread 
came  from;  didn't  know  of  the  existence  of  such  things  as 
oak,  pine  and  fir  trees;  but  he  knew  about  vineyards,  date 
palms,  pomegranates,  locust  trees  .  .  .  He  knew  about  the 
dragon  and  the  leopard,  about  the  turtledove  and  the  hart 
that  panteth  after  the  living  waters:  he  lived  in  another 

Such  an  upbringing  was  possible  in  a  big-city  commun- 
ity too;  but  there  it  would  have  had  to  hold  off,  besides 
a  gentile  environment,  a  considerable  body  of  moderniz- 
ing or  half -modernizing  Jews,  so  that  its  course  would 
have  been  less  tacit  and  self-assured.  The  vain-longing 
for  the  Shtetl  is  a  vain-longing  for  the  security  of  its 
spiritual  life,  in  which  the  Jew  triumphed  over  the  will 
of  the  oppressor.  When  the  Shtetl  submitted  to  non-Jewish 
cultural  values,  it  took  them  over,  absorbed  them  in  a 
Jewish  or  Yiddish  form;  and  this  digestive  capacity  was  the 
secret  of  its  endurance. 

Yiddish  and  its  literature  were  as  deeply  fixed  in  the 
Return  as  were  the  Hebrew  prayers.  Despite  the  rich  non- 
Zionist,  anti-Zionist,  and  anti-nationalist  literature  which 
it  developed  in  the  late  nineteenth  and  early  twentieth 
centuries,  and  despite  its  revolutionary  section,  Yiddish 
meant,  overwhelmingly,  the  tradition. 

The  language  was  a  holding  action.  A  people  which  was 
excluded  from  history  except  as  its  passive  object,  was  wait- 
ing to  re-enter  it  on  the  grandest  scale,  and  the  language 
it  used  reflected  its  expectations,  based  on  ancient  and 
beloved  documents  continuously  recalled.  The  expecta- 



tions  were  so  long  deferred  that  the  will  to  help  in  their 
fulfillment  became  half  paralyzed,  but  the  language  and 
its  literature  preserved  it  from  complete  decay.  Yiddish 
is  instinct  with  the  certainty  of  an  ultimate  meaning  in 
history;  this  one  learns  best  from  a  study  of  the  Shtetl  in 
its  own  language. 


€4  M^  ® 


Time  Present^  Place  Here 



MUST  break  off  again,  come  up  for  air  through  the 
strata  of  fifty  years,  and  remind  myself  where  I  am  and  at 
what  point  of  time.  I  must  take  my  bearings  again  before 
plunging  back  into  the  past. 

The  place  is  the  Jewish  homeland  my  people  and  I 
dreamed  about,  the  time  is  the  thirteenth  year  of  its  inde- 
pendence. The  air-conditioned  room  I  am  working  in 
looks  out  on  the  enchanting  terraced  garden  in  front  of 
the  Faculty  House  of  the  Weizmann  Institute  of  Science. 
I  have  traveled  up  to  Jerusalem,  Haifa,  Tel  Aviv,  and 
down  to  Beersheba;  I  have  toured  the  populous  valley  of 
Jezreel,  which  was  a  grisly  desolation  when  I  first  saw  it, 
nearly  forty  years  ago;  I  have  looked  down  from  the  Gali- 
lean heights  on  the  village-  and  farm-studded  Huleh 
Valley,  which  was  then  a  scummy,  shimmering,  mosquito- 
clouded  swamp;  I  have  threaded  my  confused  way  through 
distracting  crowds  in  the  cities,  I  have  spent  solitary  hours 
of  contemplation  in  kibbutz  huts  overlooking  the  Jordan 
or  fronting  the  forbidding  northern  mountains;  and  I 
have  returned  to  my  double  life  here,  the  mornings  and 
evenings  given  to  the  evocation  of  the  past,  the  afternoons 


to  my  belated  wooing  of  the  power  which  is  molding  the 
future  of  the  planet. 


I  said  of  Uncle  Berel  and  my  mother — and  it  could 
be  said  of  my  Manchester-Rumanian  community  and  of 
Shtetl  Jews  generally — that  "they  had  a  deep-rooted  if 
unformulated  conviction  that  the  world,  with  its  privileges 
and  triumphs,  was  not  for  the  Jews  until  something  like  a 
Messianic  transformation  had  taken  place  in  mankind," 
The  Return  would  not  come  about,  the  homeland  would 
not  be  rebuilt,  until  the  Jews  and  the  world  were  worthy 
of  them.  But  what  was  their  dream  picture  of  the  recon- 
stituted homeland?  I  don't  think  they  had  one;  they  had 
bits  and  suggestions  for  a  picture  that  couldn't  have  been 
put  together  this  side  of  eternity;  the  pastoral  and  the 
pious  on  the  one  hand;  the  magnificent  on  the  other — if 
not  the  resplendent  Temple  and  its  sacrifices,  then  some- 
thing like  it;  a  land  of  peace — still,  with  its  complement 
of  warriors  in  the  style  of  King  David's  band,  for  orna- 
mental purposes,  since  there  would  be  no  wars;  a  land 
without  poverty  or  crime,  a  land  therefore  without  police- 
men or  jails  (Jewish  jails,  Jewish  policemen,  how  utterly 
unthinkable!) — no  thieves  or  swindlers,  let  alone,  God  for- 
bid, murderers;  an  agricultural  land,  chiefly  (how  they 
yearned  over  "the  following  of  the  plough"!),  with  vine- 
yards and  orchards  as  well  as  grainfields,  with  locust  trees 
and  a  few  camels;  a  land  of  learning  and,  of  course,  rich 
Jewishness,  As  to  the  how,  the  manner  in  which  this  home- 
land would  arise,  well,  they  were  vaguest  about  that;  not 
being  fundamentalists,  they  did  not  expect  the  literal  inter- 
vention of  the  Messiah;  all  the  same,  their  thinking  was  a 
secularized  Messianism. 

What  would  Uncle  Berel  say  at  an  Independence  Day 



parade  of  the  Israeli  army,  with  its  tanks  and  planes  and 
its  smart,  arm-swinging  ranks  of  men  and  women  and  its 
frantically  cheering  crowds  of  spectators?  I  am  afraid  that 
on  this  point  I  cannot  vouch  for  his  consistency.  He  would 
stare  for  some  minutes  open-mouthed,  he  would  begin 
to  chew  his  overhanging  mustache,  he  would  mutter  into 
it  something  like:  "I  suppose  you've  got  to  have  those 
things,"  and  he  would  finish  up  by  joining  in  the  cheering 
like  a  regular  goy.  I  find  it  harder  to  conjure  up 
the  reaction  of  my  Manchester  folk  and  of  Shtetl  people 
generally  to  the  following  excerpt  from  an  Israeli  news- 

"The  lucky  40,000  soccer  fans  who  managed  to  get 
tickets  for  the  Italy-Israel  world  cup  match,  and  the  many 
thousands  more  who  heard  the  running  commentary  on 
their  radios  Sunday,  had  holiday  in  their  hearts  for  87 
minutes  of  the  90  minute  game.  For  that  long  it  seemed 
that  Israel's  amateur  David  would  down  the  multimillion 
Italian  soccer  Goliath.  In  the  14th  minute  Israel  surprised 
all  by  scoring  first,  and  after  38  minutes  the  unbelievable 
happened — Israel  was  2-0  up.  That  was  at  half  time.  In 
the  53rd  minute  the  Italians  crept  up  a  point,  but  that 
only  from  the  penalty  spot,  and  many  here  still  believed 
and  prayed  Israel's  amateurs  would  hold  out.  But  the 
professional  training  of  the  Italian  footballers  told  in  the 
end."  (The  tragedy  of  it!) 

Harder  still  is  it  to  picture  their  bafflement  on  finding 
out  that  all  of  the  young  people  (and  quite  a  number  of 
the  older  ones)  speak  not  a  word  of  Yiddish.  How  can  that 
be?  Hebrew  is  the  national  language?  Certainly!  In  the 
Holy  Land  it  is  fitting  that  everyone  should  speak  Hebrew. 
"But  our  Yiddish!  Our  beloved  Mamme-loshen  (mother 
tongue) !  We  learned  the  Torah  in  Yiddish,  we  suffered  and 
died  and  were  faithful  in  Yiddish,  we  kept  Jewishness  alive 



in  Yiddish!  A  Jewish  boy  or  girl  in  the  Jewish  homeland 
ignorant  of  Yiddish!  It  doesn't  make  sense." 

They  would  find  it  hard  to  acclimatize,  my  old  Man- 
chester folk  and  the  Shtetl  Jews  generally.  They  would 
have  to  realize  that  the  Messiah  hasn't  come,  and  this  is 
not  the  land  of  their  dreams.  It  has  its  grainfields  and  or- 
chards and  vineyards  and  locust  and  date  trees,  but  it  also 
has  its  cities  and  factories,  its  criminals  and  policemen  and 
jails.  It  has  its  sports  and  its  modern  army,  its  parliament, 
its  diplomats,  its  spies,  its  wrangling  political  parties,  its 
atheists  and  its  religious  fanatics.  Sometimes  I  wonder 
whether  my  rebbe  would  have  joined  the  Neturei  Karta, 
that  group  of  thrice-ultra-orthodox  zealots  which,  living  in 
Israel,  is  opposed  to  the  idea  of  the  Jewish  state,  unspon- 
sored  as  it  was  by  the  Messiah  himself,  and  would  like  to 
see  it  dissolved  until  his  advent.  On  the  whole,  I  think 
not;  my  rebbe  was  a  kindly  man. 

But  however  difficult  they  would  find  it  to  acclimatize, 
they  would  be  proud  of  the  Jewish  homeland,  particularly 
if  they  had  learned  how  it  had  been  wrung  out  of  adverse 
circumstance,  and  what  it  had  done  for  hundreds  of  thou- 
sands of  refugees.  They  would  resign  themselves  to  the 
panoplied  choreography  of  statehood,  the  flags  and  parades 
and  saluting  and  standing  to  attention,  which  had  always 
seemed  a  little  childish  to  them.  They  would  adapt  more 
or  less  to  certain  incongruities,  the  gasoline  station  that 
announces  by  its  name  the  entrance  into  Samson's  territory, 
the  subway  that  leads  to  the  summit  of  Carmel,  the  super- 
market that  is  today  the  glory  of  Jerusalem. 

I  imagine  myself  taking  my  long-dead  relatives  on  a 
tour,  and  there  would  be  some  incomprehensible  disap- 
pointments. They  would  want  to  look  on  the  oak  of 
Mamre,  under  which  Abraham  sat  and  near  which,  no 
doubt,  he  erected  the  four-doored  tent  which  was  such  a 



sore  problem  for  my  uncle  Moritz;  I  would  have  to  tell 
them  that  the  oak  is  gone  and  the  location  not  identifiable. 
As  for  the  cave  in  which  the  patriarchs  and  three  of  the 
matriarchs  are  buried,  that  is  in  hostile  territory;  so  is 
Bethlehem,  the  little  town  to  which  Naomi  brought  Ruth 
the  Moabitess  one  day  in  the  barley  season  to  become  the 
wife  of  Boaz  and  the  ancestress  of  King  David,  and  there- 
fore of  the  Messiah;  so  is  the  grave  of  the  fourth  matriarch, 
the  most  beloved  of  all,  Rachel,  who  weeps  for  her  children 
and  will  not  be  comforted.  As  for  the  Wailing  Wall,  the 
remnant  of  the  Temple  at  which  Jews  prayed  and  wept  for 
so  many  centuries,  that  is  in  a  part  of  Jerusalem  itself  that 
is  not  ours. 

But  I  would  take  them  to  the  summit  of  Carmel  where 
Elijah,  after  his  contest  with  the  prophets  of  Baal,  heard — 
inaudible  to  everyone  else — "the  sound  of  abundance  of 
rain"  foretelling  the  end  of  the  three-year  drought,  and 
bent  himself  to  the  earth  and  prayed  mightily,  and  sent 
his  servant  seven  times  to  look  toward  the  sea,  till  he  re- 
turned with  the  immortal  phrase  about  "the  cloud  no 
bigger  than  a  man's  hand";  and  I  would  point  out  to  them 
— the  smoke  from  the  oil  refineries  permitting — the  very 
spot  in  the  valley  below,  where  Elijah  had  slain  the  prophets 
of  Baal  who  had  slain  all  the  prophets  of  Israel  ex- 
cept himself.  I  would  take  them  to  the  Valley  of  Ayalon 
where  (to  paraphrase  Gibbon)  God  suspended  the  laws  of 
nature  for  the  benefit  of  the  Israelites  and  caused  the  moon 
and  the  sun  to  stand  still  while  Joshua  completed  the 
rout  of  the  Amorites  (but  God  was  always  suspending 
the  laws  of  nature  hereabouts,  and  the  land  is  as  full  of 
miracles  as  a  pomegranate  is  of  seeds);  and  to  Jaffa,  the 
ancient  Joppa,  whence  Jonah  took  ship  for  Tarshish  and 
made  an  unscheduled  submarine  return  to  become  the 
grudging  savior  of  Nineveh. 

But  we  could  spend  many  days  in  godly  folk  reminis- 



cence  without  stirring  more  than  a  stone's  throw  from  my 
workroom  above  the  garden;  for  the  laboratories  are  built 
more  or  less  on  the  site  of  that  famous  Yabneh  Academy 
in  which  Yohanaan  ben  Zakkai  and  Eleazar  ben  Azaryah 
(he  of  the  miraculous,  face-saving  beard)  created  for  the 
Jewish  people  the  technique  of  disembodied  survival.  A 
thousand  years  or  so  before  them  the  Philistines  lorded 
it  in  these  parts,  but  having  no  Yohanaan  ben  Zakkais  and 
no  Eleazar  ben  Azaryahs,  they  perished  with  their  physical 
overthrow.  Samson  was  of  course  a  frequent  visitor  here, 
a  lover  of  Philistine  women  and  a  slayer  of  their  men; 
King  David  too,  but  hereabouts  only  as  fighter,  never  as 
lover.  By  the  singlemindedness  he  displayed  in  this  locality 
he  broke  the  back  of  the  Philistine  power,  but  because  he 
was  such  a  shedder  of  blood,  not  even  his  psalms  could  wash 
him  clean,  and  he  was  forbidden  to  rebuild  the  Temple 
on  which  he  had  set  his  heart. 

But  if  they  would  delight  in  these  evocations  (hampered 
a  little  by  blaring  klaxons,  screeching  brakes,  factory 
whistles,  radios,  plane  propellers,  and  jets)  they  would 
delight  even  more  in  the  countless  Sabbath  evening  strol- 
lers, young  and  old,  on  roads  between  villages,  on  sea-  and 
lake-shore,  in  kibbutz  and  moshav  and  city.  Golden  hour 
when  the  air  is  alive  with  freedom,  and  Jews  laugh,  not 
with  the  wry,  sophisticated  laugh  of  Sholom  Aleichem,  but 
with  unshadowed  and  spontaneous  laughter  which  declares 
tacitly:  "We  are  home!"  But  since  my  ghostly  tourists  are 
after  all  of  the  Exile,  their  delight  would  be  tinged  with 
a  sad  musing,  and  not  only  because  of  memories,  but  of 
a  partial,  nagging  awareness  of  extrusion. 


I  have  always  known  of  this  awareness  and  of  its  cause, 
but  they  were  never  as  clear  to  me  as  this  morning,  after 



a  night  of  intolerable  dreams  and  equally  intolerable 
awakenings  and  fitful  note-taking.  For  yesterday  I  went  up 
to  Jerusalem  for  my  first  visit  to  the  Eichmann  trial — it 
will  certainly  be  my  last — and  it  will  be  some  time  before 
the  effects  sink  into  their  proper  place. 

I  went,  thoroughly  a  contre-coeur,  and  after  long  resist- 
ance. What  for?  I  asked  myself.  Do  I  have  to  have  the 
horror-story  spelled  out  for  me  again  in  all  its  viscera- 
convulsing,  mind-searing  details?  Do  I  have  to  look  at  the 
wretched  thing  in  the  glass  cage,  and  try  to  reconcile  a 
human  appearance  with  a  mephitic  monstrosity?  It  is  for 
others,  not  for  me;  for  the  millions  who  let  it  glide  by  them 
with  a  donation,  or  a  sigh,  or  perhaps  with  a  crafty  head- 
shake  of  incredulity.  Weeks  and  months  I  kept  putting  it 
off,  telling  myself  nevertheless  that  I  ought  to  go,  since  I  so 
easily  could,  and  that  some  day  I  might  regret  not  having 
gone  and  perhaps  learned  something  to  impart  to  others. 

But  I  learned  nothing  from  it;  that  I  am  prone  to  night- 
mares I  already  knew,  and  that  the  story  must  never  be 
forgotten  I  already  believed.  The  thoughts  I  want  to  order 
and  set  down  have  been  running  through  my  mind  for 
a  long  time,  some  of  them  for  years,  some  since  the  capture 
of  Eichmann,  some  since  my  arrival  here  shortly  after 
the  trial  opened.  In  America  and  here  I  have  listened  to, 
I  have  read,  countless  discussions.  I  have  heard  untrained 
laymen  argue  hotly  on  the  legality  of  the  case  and  the 
competence  of  the  court;  I  have  heard  those  who  conceded 
both  object  nevertheless  to  the  way  the  trial  was  con- 
ducted. It  should  have  been  thus  and  so;  the  indictment 
should  not  have  been  directed  solely  against  Germany; 
the  nations  which  did  so  little  to  thwart  the  genocidal 
enterprise  should  have  been  included.  The  Jews  them- 
selves are  not  exempt;  they  too  did  less  than  they  might 
have  done.  The  trial  should  properly  have  been  an  indict- 



merit  of  the  human  species.  The  prosecutor  and  the  judges 
were  not  equal  to  their  task;  they  should  have — they 
should  have — I  am  not  clear  as  to  what  was  expected  of 
them;  perhaps  a  grandeur  of  moral  utterance  surpassing 
anything  in  the  Bible,  something  that  would  shake  the 
world  as  the  Prophets  themselves  have  failed  to  do.  The 
court  should  have  risen  above  the  Jewish  tragedy;  it  should 
have  heard  crying  from  the  ground  the  blood  of  all  the 
butchered  minorities.  It  should  have — there  is  no  end  to  it. 

It  would  be  foolish  to  try  to  deal  with  these  pretentious 
dissatisfactions.  But  there  is  one  which  will  bear  discussion. 
It  did  not  arise  from  the  trial;  here  in  Israel  loudly,  else- 
where more  softly,  it  was  heard  before;  the  trial  brought 
its  utterance  to  a  focus;  and  it  has  become,  it  remains,  a 
moral  issue  of  a  kind.  It  is  concerned  with  the  victims, 
not  with  the  criminals.  Why  did  they  go  like  sheep  to  the 
slaughter?  Why  did  so  few  of  them — and  these  few  so  late 
— stand  up  like  men  and,  knowing  themselves  doomed, 
at  least  exact  a  life  for  a  life  where  they  could,  "take  one 
of  the  butchers  with  them"  (that  is  the  favorite  phrase)? 
It  might  not  have  saved  any  Jewish  lives,  but  it  would 
have  cost  the  murderers  a  good  many;  and  under  such  cir- 
cumstances the  death  of  the  victims  would  not  have  been 
so  ignoble,  their  memory  not  merely  and  not  so  humili- 
atingly  pitiable. 

The  reproach  sometimes  cuts  deeper.  Why  did  the  Jews 
"collaborate"  with  their  destroyers?  Why  did  they  furnish 
lists?  Why  did  they  not  simply  stage,  everywhere,  a  sit- 
down  strike,  thus  making  it  harder  (some  would  aver  im- 
possible) for  the  universal  butcher  to  carry  out  his  plan? 
As  armchair  generals  refight,  victoriously,  the  battles  lost 
by  generals  in  the  field,  so  these  critics  of  Jewish  behavior 
under  Hitler  tell  the  dead  what  they  should  have  done. 
The  capacity  of  the  Nazis  for  torture  is  ignored:    that 



they  could  have  placed  women  and  children  on  the  rack,  or 
shot  them  down  in  the  presence  of  husbands  and  fathers,  or 
simply  closed  all  foodshops  to  the  Jews,  makes  no  differ- 
ence; neither  does  the  unbelievability,  at  the  time,  of  the 
total  intention  of  the  Nazis.  "I'll  tell  you  what  you  should 
have  done.  ..." 

On  the  part  of  a  Jew  such  an  appraisal  may  be  rooted 
in  a  number  of  sources,  all  of  them  discreditable  in  some 
degree.  His  predominant  feeling  may  be  that  he  has  been 
badly  let  down  by  the  six  million  unheroic  fellow  Jews 
who  perished  in  the  camps;  or  he  may  be  totally  alienated 
from  Jewish  knowledge  or  at  least  the  significance  of  the 
two  thousand  years  of  Jewish  exile.  But  nowhere  does  this 
appraisal  come  to  more  revolting  expression  than  in  the 
slanted  analysis  of  the  ghastly  tragedy  offered  to  the  public 
by  Miss  Hannah  Arendt.  One  recoils  with  a  quiver  of 
pure  disgust  from  the  interpretation  of  the  "facts,"  which 
makes  the  leaders  of  that  trapped  Jewry  look  like  a  scummy 
lot,  and  which  leads  to  the  general  conclusion  that  when 
cowardly  people  are  murdered  they  have  mostly  themselves 
to  blame.  Bewildered,  one  contrasts  this  stony  and  heart- 
less attitude  with  the  sensitivity  and  understanding  of  Mr. 
Hersey's  The  Wall. 

It  must  however  be  conceded  that  Miss  Arendt's  views 
as  expressed  recently  are  consistent  with  those  she  ex- 
pressed in  1951,  when  the  horror  story  was  still  fresh  and 
before  she  had  the  "facts"  as  presented  in  the  Hilberg  study 
on  which  she  seems  to  rely  implicitly.  On  persecution  at 
large  she  delivered  this  dictum: 

Persecution  of  powerless  or  power-losing  groups 
may  not  be  a  very  pleasant  spectacle,*  but  it  does  not 
spring  from  human  meanness  alone. 

*  A  curious  way  of  putting  it,  at  once  tough  and  mincing.  I  did  not  quite 
get  the  spirit  of  it  until  this  book  was  in  press  and  I  read  Mr.  George 
Steiner's  review  of  Miss  Arendt's  On  Revolution    [The  Reporter,  May  9, 



and  on  the  persecution  of  the  Jews: 

Just  as  anti-Semites  understandably  desire  to  escape 
responsibility  for  their  deeds,  so  Jews,  attacked  and  on 
the  defensive,  even  more  understandably  do  not  wish 
to  discuss  under  any  circumstances  their  share  of  the 

Hence,  when  we  press  for  the  outlawing  of  genocide,  let 
us  not  forget,  when  a  case  of  genocide  does  occur,  to  look 
carefully  into  the  character  of  the  annihilated  people  for 
their  share  of  the  guilt.  It  might  possibly  be  larger  than 
that  of  the  annihilators! 

Aldous  Huxley  tells  somewhere  of  a  devoted  priest  who 
ministered  to  kidnapped  Negroes  on  a  slave  ship,  and  re- 
minded them  of  their  sins.  His  motive  was  noble;  he 
wanted  the  wretched  victims  to  feel  that  even  in  their 
horrible  plight  they  were  still  human,  still  capable  of  a 
choice  between  good  and  evil;  but  it  does  not  appear  that 
he  regarded  their  sins  of  the  past  or  present  as  a  contribu- 
tory element  to  their  misfortune.  The  word  "persecution" 
loses  its  meaning  if  it  is  tinged  with  the  notion  of  punish- 
ment— the  only  ground  I  can  conceive  as  justifying  the 
suggestion  that  persecution  does  not  spring  from  human 
meanness  alone.  The  persecutor  may,  and  nearly  always 
does,  consider  himself  the  instrument  of  retribution, 
divine  or  historical  ("We  shall  be  stern,  but  just,"  said  Hit- 
ler), but  he  is  not  concerned  with  the  moral  improvement 
of  his  victims.  To  take  the  contrary  view  in  the  case  of  the 
Jews — one  could  say  the  same  thing  of  the  Armenians  and 
the  Turks — is,  however  unladylike  it  sounds,  to  spit  on 
the  grave  of  six  million  victims  of  human  bestiality.  And 

1963).  He  says  of  it,  inter  alia:  "Throughout  this  brilliant  but  oddly  cruel 
book  the  heart  is  damned."  This  is  one  of  the  kinder  things  one  could 
say  of  Miss  Arendt's  articles  on  the  Eichmann  trial  and  the  murder  of  the 
six  million  Jews. 


lest  the  reader  suspect,  as  he  must,  that  I  quote  Miss  Arendt 
out  of  context,  let  him  turn  to  the  first  chapter  of  her 
The  Origins  of  Totalitarianism  (New  York,  1951). 

As  to  what  I  have  called  a  total  alienation  from  the 
significance  of  two  thousand  years  of  Jewish  exile,  let  us 
evaluate  two  thousand  years  of  Jewish  exile  nonresistance 
in  the  most  utilitarian  terms.  Jewish  communities  knew 
that  to  resist,  to  rise  against  the  oppressor,  meant  to  be 
wiped  out,  whereas  the  refusal  to  hit  back  or  even  to  take 
aggressive  measures  of  defense,  meant  the  survival  of  some. 
But  the  survival  of  the  few,  of  "the  remnant,"  was  not  an 
end  in  itself;  it  was  the  condition  for  the  perpetuation  and 
the  continuance  of  the  faith.  Wretched  and  repulsive  as 
this  behavior  must  strike  an  outsider,  the  insider — and  the 
rare  outsider — will  see  in  it  a  valor  that  is  of  the  spirit  as 
well  as  of  the  flesh. 

A  clear  glimpse  of  this  exile  ethos  is  afforded  by  the 
revolt  of  the  Warsaw  ghetto  when  all  hope  had  been  wiped 
out.  Were  the  Warsaw  ghetto  fighters  (to  take  but  one  in- 
stance) of  a  different  breed  from  the  rest  of  the  Jews?  If  so, 
why  did  they  wait  till  there  was  nothing  to  be  lost  or 
gained  before  they  rose  on  April  21,  1943?  There  is  only 
one  answer:  until  that  date  they  accepted,  though  with 
mounting  impatience,  the  bitter  strategy  which  had  served 
the  Jewish  people  for  two  thousand  years. 

How  startling  it  is  that  a  non-Jew,  and  a  German  at 
that,  should  have  shown  the  keenest  and  most  sympathetic 
understanding  of  the  Jewish  exile  dilemma.  In  his  magnifi- 
cent saga-Midrash,  Joseph  and  His  Brothers,  Thomas 
Mann  has  clarified  forever  its  nature  and  resolution;  and 
to  those  who  are  troubled  by  it  I  recommend  a  reading 
and  rereading,  in  its  fullness,  of  the  Jacob-Eliphaz  episode 
in  the  first  volume.  The  Tales  of  Jacob. 

Jacob  is  in  flight  from  his  brother  Esau,  whom  he  has 


"swindled"  out  of  that  paternal  spiritual  blessing  which 
Esau  would  have  had  no  use  for.  Eliphaz,  Esau's  high- 
spirited  son,  sets  out  in  pursuit,  determined  to  wreak 
venegeance  on  the  thief.  Well-armed,  overwhelmingly  at- 
tended, he  overtakes  his  uncle,  and  we  read: 

"What  happened  then  had  touched  Jacob's  pride  and 
honour  more  surely  than  anything  else  in  all  his  life;  it  was 
calculated  to  undermine  and  would  have  undermined  for- 
ever the  dignity  and  self-confidence  of  another  man.  He 
was  obliged — if  he  wanted  to  live,  and  that  he  did  at  all 
costs;  not,  we  must  remember,  out  of  common  cowardice, 
but  because  he  was  consecrated,  because  the  promise  and 
the  blessing  handed  down  from  Abraham  lay  upon  him — to 
try  to  soften  by  entreaties  the  heart  of  this  lad,  his  nephew, 
so  much  younger  than  himself,  and  so  much  lower 
in  station  ...  to  reach  him  through  self-abasement  and 
tears  and  flatteries,  through  whining  appeals  to  his  mag- 
nanimity, with  a  thousand  pleas  and  excuses,  in  a  word, 
by  thoroughly  demonstrating  the  fact  that  it  was  not  worth 
Eliphaz 's  while  to  turn  his  sword  against  such  a  grovel- 
ling suppliant.  He  did  it,  he  kissed  the  lad's  feet  like  one 
frenzied,  he  flung  whole  handfuls  of  dust  into  the  air  to 
fall  back  on  his  head;  his  tongue  ran  without  stint  .  .  ." 

Thomas  Mann  extends  himself  on  the  unpalatable 
scene,  sparing  neither  Jacob  nor  the  reader,  till  the  latter 
asks:  How  can  a  man  sink  so  low,  lick  the  dust  so  enthusi- 
astically? Is  there  anything  that  can  justify  it? 

We  learn  further  how  Eliphaz,  half  in  disgust,  half  in 
embarrassment,  turns  from  the  babbling,  sniveling,  pros- 
trate figure,  and  contents  himself  with  stripping  Jacob 
of  all  the  treasures  his  mother  had  sent  along  with  him  to 
win  the  favor  of  his  uncle  Laban  in  Syria.  But — 

"He  had  saved  his  life,  his  precious  covenanted  life, 
for  God  and  the  future — ^what  were  gold  and  cornelian 


to  set  against  that?  For  life  is  all;  and  young  Eliphaz  had 
been  even  more  brilliantly  swindled  than  his  father — but 
at  what  a  price!  Above  and  beyond  the  valuables,  it  had 
meant  the  loss  of  the  whole  man's  honour,  for  how  could 
one  be  more  shamed  than  Jacob  was,  having  bowed  his 
head  in  the  dust  before  a  stripling,  whining,  his  face 
smeared  with  dust  and  tears?  And  then?  What  happened 
straightway  after  the  degradation?" 

That  happened  which  is  unforgettably  recorded  as 
Jacob's  dream  of  the  ladder  to  heaven  and  the  ascending 
and  descending  angels,  for  the  place  was  Beth-El,  and  here 
Jacob  lay  down  to  sleep  .  .  . 

"Then  it  was  that  high  matters  came  to  pass;  then  truly, 
toward  midnight,  after  some  hours  of  profound  slumber, 
his  head  was  lifted  up  from  every  ignominy,  even  to  the 
countenance  of  the  Most  High,  wherein  mingled  all  of  the 
royal  and  of  the  divine  which  his  soul  had  ever  compassed 
in  its  imaginings;  which  that  soul  then,  humbled,  yet 
smiling  privily  in  its  abasement,  erected  for  its  own 
strengthening  and  consolation  in  the  space  of  its  dreams ..." 

I  am  not  suggesting,  even  remotely,  that  all  Jews  who 
vainly  or  successfully  have  licked  the  boots  of  their  murder- 
ous oppressors  have  been  Jacobs;  it  is  enough  to  consider 
how  for  two  millennia  a  people  endured,  between  pre- 
carious respites,  all  the  cruelties  and  humiliations  that  man 
can  endure,  and  set  its  teeth  to  survive  together  with  its 
dream.  To  thousands  of  Israelis,  and  particularly  to  sabras 
(the  native-born)  the  Exile,  the  bi-millennial  stretch  be- 
tween Bar  Kochba  and  Ben  Gurion,  is  something  to  be  "re- 
pressed"; it  offends  their  honor.  They  fought  against  im- 
mense odds,  put  the  life  of  the  new  homeland  to  the 
hazard,  and  won.  They  do  not  reflect  that  the  chances  in 
a  declared  war,  a  challenge  taken  up,  in  the  Exile,  were 
not  one  in  a  million.  They  forget  that  they  owe  their 


existence  to  the  obstinate  passivity  of  their  forefathers 
who,  cringing,  ran  the  gauntlet  between  rows  of  mur- 
derers, hugging  under  their  coats  the  precious  burden 
which  they  delivered  at  its  destination  in  the  fullness  of 

Many  sabras  despise  Yiddish  as  a  language  because  it  is 
the  symbol  as  well  as  the  creation  and  mirror  of  the  Exile 
and  its  long  disgrace;  of  Yiddish  as  the  custodian  of  the 
Jewish  idea  they  have  no  concept,  and  of  the  richness  of 
experience  distilled  into  it  no  inkling. 

There  was  a  time,  thirty  and  forty  and  fifty  years  ago, 
when  young  zealots  in  the  evolving  homeland  demon- 
strated against  Yiddish,  rebuked  users  of  it  in  public 
places,  bade  them  use  Hebrew  or  presumably,  if  they 
knew  only  Yiddish,  to  be  silent  except  when  at  home. 
There  was  no  objection  to  the  use  of  other  languages; 
Yiddish  represented  the  traumatic  memory  to  be  effaced. 
It  is  true  that  the  climate  in  the  country  has  changed; 
Yiddish  speakers  are  free  from  molestation,  Yiddish  peri- 
odicals— among  them  Die  Goldene  Keit,  one  of  the  best 
we  have  ever  had — are  common,  Yiddish  theatrical  per- 
formances are  frequent.  But  the  attitude  toward  exilic 
Jewry,  past  and  present,  remains,  among  many  of  the 
young,  and  some  of  the  old,  negative  and  impatient;  and 
the  achievements  of  exilic  Jewry  are  squeezed  into  insig- 
nificance between  the  grandeur  of  ancient  and  the  pride  of 
modern  Israel.  There  is  tolerance  of  Yiddish  only  because 
Hebrew  is  so  firmly  established;  but  what  Yiddish  repre- 
sents is  contemptuously  dismissed. 

This  belittlement  of  the  travail  of  sixty  generations  may 
be  linked  to  a  passing  hubris;  if  so,  it  need  not  trouble  us. 
But  if  it  is  the  symptom  of  a  growing  division  in  the  iden- 
tity of  the  Jewish  people,  the  spiritual  purpose  of  the 
re-creation  of  Israel  may  be  long  obscured  and  perhaps 


suffer  permanent  eclipse.  The  Exile  is  as  meaningful  a  part 
of  Jewish  history  as  the  Homeland;  to  assume  that  it  was 
an  aberration,  a  nightmare  without  values,  is  to  lop  off 
more  than  half  of  Jewish  history  and  to  declare  that  Jewish 
persistence  was  nothing  more  than  an  incomprehensibly 
extended  exercise  in  low  cunning  which  it  would  be  decent 
to  forget.  A  Jewish  state  which  does  not  absorb  the  affirma- 
tive part  of  the  Exile  is  not  true  even  to  the  remote  past 
in  which  it  purports  to  find  its  justification,  for  that  remote 
past  foretold  the  Exile  and  bade  the  Jewish  people  learn 
from  it. 

Hence  the  touch  of  reserve  on  the  faces,  the  reflective 
hesitance  in  the  voices,  of  my  imaginary  visitors.  In  their 
inarticulate  way — for  I  am  thinking  still  of  amcho,  the 
plebs — they  feel  that  they  were  not  nobodies  and  nullities. 
They  had  something  which  derived  from  Sinai  and  the 
Prophets,  and  that  something,  defaced  as  it  was,  they 
conserved  for  the  Homeland-to-be.  The  Homeland-in- 
being  is  a  wonderful  thing  surely;  but  there  were  and  are 
Jewish  moral  values  in  the  Exile  which  the  Homeland 
can  ignore  only  at  its  peril.  And  as  I  take  my  bearings 
now,  looking  back  over  fifty  years  of  Israel's  growth,  I 
imagine  that  the  humble  plaint  I  am  formulating  for  my 
relatives  is  the  crucial  spiritual  problem  before  Israel. 


PART   2 

Cities  and  Men 


S4  159  m 




t  The  Eruption 

£  4, 



HE  CITY  of  Paris  has  been  a  recurrent  marker  in 
my  life.  I  was  there  first  from  my  fifth  to  my  sixth  year  in 
transit  to  England  with  my  family;  a  second  time  in  the 
summer  of  1914;  a  third  from  1919  to  1920,  during  and 
following  the  negotiations  of  the  Versailles  peace  treaty; 
a  fourth  in  the  summer  of  1939,  at  the  outbreak  of  the 
Second  World  War.  These  are  the  sojourns  with  signifi- 
cance; there  have  also  been  many  brief  visits. 

I  give  the  first  place  to  my  1914  sojourn,  which  occurred 
in  my  twentieth  year,  when  I  left  Manchester  for  Paris 
because  I  was  going  to  be  a  Writer.  I  did  not  make  the 
decision  to  be  a  Writer;  it  had  made  itself  in  my  boyhood, 
probably  in  Miss  Clarke's  time.  I  could  of  course  have 
been  a  writer  anywhere,  but  a  Writer  only  in  Paris.  What 
kind  of  Writing  was  I  going  to  do?  Well,  poetry,  novels, 
essays,  short  stories,  plays — I  was  good  at  everything.  I  was 
prepared  to  wait  for  recognition,  even  anxious  to;  im- 
mediate success  would  have  been  a  reflection  on  my  genius. 
I  did  not,  however,  aspire  to  the  supreme  tribute  of  life- 
long starvation  and  obscurity;  a  year  or  two  in  a  garret 
would  satisfy  my  self-esteem  and  add  the  indispensable 
cachet  to  my  life  story. 


From  this  point  of  view  the  beginning  was  inauspicious; 
I  did  not  come  within  hailing  distance  of  starvation.  The 
day  after  my  arrival  in  Paris  in  June  1914,  with  two 
shillings  or  so  in  my  pocket,  I  was  able  to  write  home 
that  I  was  profitably  employed  not  by  one  newspaper  but 
by  two,  and  under  conditions — which  I  did  not  describe — 
the  most  conducive  to  my  literary  freedom.  I  was,  in  fact, 
selling  the  Paris  editions  of  The  Daily  Mail  and  The  New 
York  Herald  mornings  at  the  Gare  St.  Lazare  where  the 
suburban  trains  brought  in  the  American  and  English 
commuters.  I  cleared  seven  or  eight  francs  a  day  for  an 
hour's  work  (nearer  three  with  the  coming  and  going), 
and  the  rest  of  the  day  I  was  free  to  read,  write,  gulp  in 
life,  invoke  the  ghosts  of  Murger  and  de  Musset  and  con- 
gratulate humanity  and  myself  on  our  successful 
rendezvous.  The  sinister  omen  escaped  my  attention: 
selling  newspapers  in  one's  youth  might  be  the  prologue 
to  the  acquisition  of  great  wealth,  the  tradition  did  not 
link  it  with  high  literary  achievement. 

Thirty-five  to  forty  francs  a  week  and  no  work  on 
Saturdays  and  Sundays!  It  was  more  than  a  competence 
in  the  Paris  of  that  time;  it  was  affluence.  At  33  rue  des 
Ecoles,  just  off  the  boulevard  St.  Michel — beg  pardon, 
the  Boul'  Miche'  (and  where  else  would  I  be  living?) — I 
paid  seven  francs  a  week  for  a  room  on  the  fifth  floor,  and 
had  my  shoes  shined  every  morning,  no  doubt  to  their 
great  astonishment,  unaccustomed  as  they  were  to  more 
than  a  flick  of  the  brush  every  week  or  two.  Breakfast,  a 
buttered  croissant  and  coffee,  was  fifteen  centimes;  lunch 
eighty,  with  tip;  supper  a  franc  ten,  pain  a  discretion 
(all  the  bread  you  wanted).  Total,  rent  included,  three 
francs  five  centimes  a  day,  leaving  me  with  a  discretionary 
surplus,  as  I  think  they  call  it,  of  over  two  francs  a  day. 
Newspapers  cost  me  nothing,  I  read  my  own.  But  there 



was  in  the  France  of  those  days  a  kind  of  Haldemann 
Julius  enterprise,  the  French  classics  in  newspaper  form 
at  ten  centimes  each,  and  I  bought  and  devoured  three  or 
four  a  week.  What  else  did  I  need?  Writing  paper  and 
pencils  and,  yes,  a  bottle  of  pinard  (cheap  table  wine) 
daily,  at  seventy-five  centimes.  I  could  also  afford  an  eve- 
ning aperitif. 

Every  morning,  after  work,  I  wrote;  and  every  after- 
noon, except  when  it  rained,  I  lay  in  the  grass  in  the 
Jardin  du  Luxembourg  and  read,  and  sipped,  and  made 
notes,  or  broke  off  to  meditate,  or  to  watch  the  puppet 
showman  delight  an  audience  of  juveniles  in  the  charge 
of  mothers  and  nurses  with  a  performance  of  Jean  le 
Redoutable.  I  would  have  liked  to  come  close  enough  to 
enjoy  the  show  itself,  but  I  was  ashamed  to  betray  my 
infantile  taste,  and  I  would  have  had  to  drop  something 
in  the  puppeteer's  hat.  On  rainy  days,  I  was  perched  in 
my  garret — infinite  room  in  a  nutshell.  And  there  were 
times  when  I  needed  infinite  room,  when  I  felt  I  was 
about  to  explode  with  sheer  joy  into  the  dimensions  of  a 
sizable  nebula. 

There  was  a  history  behind  that  onset  of  euphoria.  I 
had  just  finished  college,  that  is,  I  had  come  to  the  end 
of  the  three-year  scholarship  awarded  me  by  the  city  of 
Manchester,  and  I  had  not  taken  a  degree.  Not  that  I  had 
been  wanting  in  application;  it  was  only  that  I  had  ap- 
plied myself  with  immense  if  unsystematic  industry  to 
anything  but  the  subjects  I  had  enrolled  for  (French  per- 
haps an  exception).  I  had  learned  by  heart  scores  of  pages 
of  poetry,  not  one  page  of  physics  formulas;  I  had  read 
Shaw,  Wells,  Bennett,  Galsworthy,  Conrad,  Rolland, 
Hamsun,  Hauptmann,  instead  of  Beowulf  and  Langland. 
I  had  had  fits  of  Plato,  Kant,  Bradley,  Hume,  and  there 
was  my  political  activity.  All  this  not  because  physics  or 



Beowulf  bored  me,  but  because  I  was  in  reaction  from 
competitive  study. 

From  my  thirteenth  year  on,  when  I  got  my  scholarship 
to  high  school,  I  had  hounded  myself  for  good  marks  be- 
cause there  was  no  other  road  for  me  to  an  education.  At 
fifteen  I  had  been  awarded  a  "bursary"  of  fifteen  pounds  a 
year  for  two  years;  without  that  six  shillings  a  week  I 
might  have  had  to  leave  school.  I  used  only  one  year  of  the 
bursary,  for  at  sixteen  I  won  the  Grand  Prix  of  our  junior 
academic  world,  three  years  at  the  University  with  sixty 
pounds  a  year,  enough  to  keep  me  and  pay  for  my  books. 
By  that  time  my  soul  had  become  warped  with  the  anguish 
of  waiting  for  examination  results. 

This  is  not  an  exaggeration.  When  even  today  I  read  of 
a  student  committing  suicide  because  of  failure  in  an 
examination,  a  throb  of  retroactive  terror  goes  through 
me.  I  remember  coming  home  from  important  examina- 
tions, creeping  upstairs  and  lying  down  on  my  bed  sick 
in  all  my  body.  Or  I  would  walk  for  hours  in  unfamiliar 
streets,  muttering.  I  had  failed!  My  papers  had  been 
starred  with  idiotic  answers,  and  they  sprang  up  before 
me  the  moment  I  left  the  examination  hall.  On  bad  nights 
I  still  have  nightmares  of  a  peculiar  kind  which  have 
their  origin  in  that  post-examination  misery,  and  I  come 
out  of  them  in  a  sweat.  When,  a  few  years  ago,  I  saw  a 
similar  experience  portrayed  with  great  skill  in  Wild 
Strawberries,  I  trembled  with  terror. 

I  did  not  actually  fail  at  the  university;  it  was  simply 
that  my  credits  did  not  add  up  to  a  degree,  and  at  the  time 
it  seemed  a  terrible  thing  to  me  that  I  should  have  to  go 
through  life  without  a  B.A.  after  my  name.  Against  this, 
however,  and  overwhelming  it  completely,  was  my  gradua- 
tion into  freedom.  I  was  no  longer  a  schoolboy,  watched 
and  weighed  and  graded  at  regular  intervals.  The  world 



was  my  examiner  now,  and  I  didn't  have  to  be  better  than 
anyone  now;  I  just  had  to  do  my  best. 

There  was  another  reason  for  my  happiness,  deeper,  re- 
vealed to  me  later.  I  was  coming  out  of  the  phase  of 
philosophic  materialism  I  have  described,  alien  to  my 
type  of  mind.  I  had  never  accepted  it  completely  or  con- 
sistently, but  there  had  been  enough  of  it  to  bring  on 
periodic  depressions.  My  love  of  poetry  was  one  expression 
of  my  rejection  of  it.  I  was  going  to  find  my  spiritual  roots 
before  long,  but  for  the  time  being  I  was  at  large,  bursting 
with  unchanneled  mental  energies  and  reacting  to  intima- 
tions of  approaching  self-discovery.  Some  years  were  to 
pass  before  I  committed  myself  to  Jewishness,  much 
nourishment  had  to  come  up  from  the  roots;  I  had  to 
learn  much  in  the  way  of  Yiddish  and  Hebrew  and  Jewish 
history,  subjects  in  which  I  was  an  illiterate.  Thus,  my 
first  published  books  were  not  on  Jewish  themes;  those 
waited  for  almost  a  decade. 

When  I  look  back  at  those  1914  summer  months  in 
Paris,  it  seems  to  me  that  all  unsuspecting  I  was  acting 
out  in  person  a  charade  of  the  general  self-deception  of 
the  time.  I  was  living  blithely  in  a  world  that  was  about 
to  burst  apart,  never  to  be  reassembled.  Under  our  feet 
tremendous  pressures  were  at  the  detonation  point,  and 
not  the  slightest  tremor  reached  our  consciousness.  There 
were  of  course  criers  of  doom;  but  there  always  are,  and 
one  never  knows  when  the  cries  are  timely.  There  are 
always  Columbuses,  real  and  fake,  and  they  look  alike.  If 
you  pick  out  a  real  one  it  is  largely  by  luck,  which  you 
later  represent  as  shrewdness,  or  vision.  So  one  plays  it 
safe,  one  closes  one's  ears,  and  as  a  rule  one  is  of  course 
right.  It  seems  that  thus  far  human  history  has  been  un- 
able to  proceed  in  any  other  fashion.  Besides,  even  the 
Columbuses  themselves  never  know  where  they  are  going. 



In  that  fatuous  world  of  June  and  July  1914,  so  com- 
placent, so  self-assured,  in  that  massively  self-deluding 
world,  I  was  playing  my  own  silly  little  game  of  make- 
believe.  Murger  and  de  Musset!  Why,  their  world  was 
deader  than  a  doornail  in  1 9 1 4 — that  is,  if  it  had  ever  been 
alive.  The  Latin  Quarter,  like  its  imitators  everywhere, 
was  largely  a  sham;  the  streets  swarmed  with  poets, 
painters,  sculptors,  musicians,  writers;  perhaps  one  in  a 
thousand  meant  business.  As  with  the  Columbuses  and 
the  political  prophets,  there  was  no  distinguishing  between 
the  young  dedicated  artificer  and  the  windbag.  I  ought 
to  add  that  five  years  later,  when  I  was  again  in  Paris,  I 
still  believed  for  a  while  that  to  be  a  Writer  one  simply 
had  to  be  in  Paris. 

I  have  often  wondered  why  my  childhood  year  in  Paris, 
in  1900  and  1901,  has  left  with  me  nothing  more  than 
factual  little  memories,  unattended  by  nostalgia.  We 
were  very  poor  there,  but  not  poorer  than  during  our 
first  year  or  two  in  Manchester.  I  remember  going  in 
1914  to  the  rue  Joseph  Dijon,  in  the  Clignan  court  district, 
where  we  had  lived,  but  I  was  not  stirred.  We  had  occupied 
a  room  and  a  half  on  the  ground  floor  of  Number  23; 
in  the  half  room  at  the  front  my  father  had  worked  and 
slept;  in  the  living  room  at  the  back  my  mother  and  the 
four  children  had  slept.  My  mother  used  to  take  in  sewing 
and  work  late  into  the  night;  I  can  still  see  the  shadow  of 
her  hand  sweep  up  and  down  the  wall.  Hannah  and  I 
used  to  get  free  lunches  at  school  (Dora  was  too  young  for 
school)  and  I  loathed  them;  they  made  me  sick — all  except 
the  potato  soup,  and  how  relieved  I  was  when  that  came 

I  must  have  known  a  lot  of  French  by  the  time  we  went 
to  England,  but  it  faded  out;  I  had  to  learn  it  all  over 
again,  but  as  with  my  Yiddish,  there  was  no  doubt  a 



permanent  residue.  Blocks  of  meaningless  syllables  were 
lodged  in  my  mind,  such  as  my  brother  Mendel  saying: 
" Lepattronnaypalla,"  which  I  have  deciphered  as  "le 
patron  n'est  pas  la."  There  was  a  snowfall,  and  we  sang  in 

Larnairzher ,  larnairzher , 
Tombofflonker,  tombofflonker 

That,  I  have  decided,  must  have  been: 

La  neige,  la  neige 

Tombe  en  flocons,  tombe  en  flocons 

One  look  at  the  rue  Joseph  Dijon  was  enough.  I  cannot 
recall  having  gone  that  summer  to  the  Louvre,  or  the 
Tour  Eiffel,  or  the  Sacre  Coeur,  or  any  other  of  the 
sights.  My  pictures  are  of  the  entrances  to  the  Gare  St. 
Lazare,  of  my  tiny  room,  of  the  swarming  boulevard  St. 
Michel,  and  above  all  of  the  lawns  in  the  Luxembourg 
Gardens;  and  all  of  them  are  etched  in  my  mind  with  a 
surrealistic  sharpness  which  has  survived  all  subsequent 
returns  to  them. 

When  the  explosion  came,  its  significance  was,  as 
everyone  remembers  or  has  read,  recognized  or  guessed  at 
by  only  a  few.  War!  Ridiculous  and  unbelievable!  All 
(as  we  chanted  in  chorus)  because  of  a  shot  fired  in 
Sarajevo;  because  of  bumbling,  panicky  politicians,  Aus- 
trian, German,  Russian,  French,  English,  prisoners  of 
antiquated  modes  of  thought,  with  antiquated  institutions 
called  armies  at  their  command.  Hadn't  Norman  Angell 
just  proved  conclusively  in  The  Great  Illusion  that  war 
was  an  anachronism,  as  costly  to  the  victor  as  to  the  van- 
quished, and  that  colonies  were  liabilities?  I  myself  had 
made  many  speeches  to  that  effect  to  my  socialist  audi- 
ences. This  thing  was  simply  inadmissible.  In  a  few  weeks, 



a  few  months  at  the  outside,  the  peoples  would  come  to 
their  senses;  the  damned  foolishness  would  be  over  by 
Christmas;  the  workers  would  rise  in  their  might;  we 
would  take  up  where  we  had  left  off.  You  couldn't  stop  the 
world's  progress,  you  know. 

My  indiscriminate  memory  retains  words,  phrases, 
scenes,  incidents.  At  street  comers  crowds  on  their  way  to 
work  in  the  early  morning  would  stop  for  a  short  song- 
fest  (a  lovely  Parisian  custom)  led  by  a  man  on  a  box  selling 
sheet  music.  One  of  the  instantaneous  successes  of  that 
time  is  still  with  me. 

Un  bruit  frapp e  Vespace, 

C'est  celui  du  canon, 

Qui  vient  avec  audace 

Troubler  les  nations. 

Vont-ils  longtemps, 

Ces  Allemands, 

Nous  entrainer  vers  la  fournaise? 

Mais  sans  broncher 

Sachons  marcher 

Quand  retentit  la  Marseillaise! 

On  the  wall  of  the  Sarah  Bernhardt  theater  someone 
had  scribbled  in  chalk: 

Aux  abeilles  les  fleurs, 
Aux   Frangais   Vhonneur; 
Et  pour  ne  rien  perdre 
Aux  Allemands  la  m . 

A  paroxysm  of  war  fever  gripped  the  country,  or  at  least 
the  city,  which  I  was  able  to  observe  at  first  hand.  Good 
God!  What  was  happening  to  common  sense,  to  the  work- 
ing class,  to  civilization,  to  my  Vie  de  Boheme? 

On  the  evening  of  August  2  I  sat  at  an  outdoor  caf^ 



on  the  boulevard  des  Italiens.  I  had  been  sitting  at  another 
cafe  nearby,  a  day  or  two  earlier,  when  I  heard  the  shot 
that  killed  Jean  Jaures,  the  great  socialist,  one  of  my  idols, 
for  his  opposition  to  the  extension  of  the  conscription 
period.  On  that  second  evening  I  was  remembering  the 
agitation  that  boiled  along  the  streets,  the  incredulousness, 
the  rage — and  with  them  the  consolatory  cries:  "This  does 
it!  This  will  show  the  world  what  kind  of  people  war- 
mongers are.  Jaures!  With  your  martyr's  death  you  have 
crowned  your  life  work.  There  will  be  no  more  war!" 
This  I  was  remembering,  and  war  was  here. 

A  black,  roaring  mass  came  down  on  us  like  a  flood 
from  the  direction  of  the  Porte  St.  Martin.  It  stretched 
from  wall  to  wall,  sweeping  back  the  traffic,  upsetting, 
smashing,  and  trampling  on  chairs  and  tables,  carrying 
along  those  who  did  not  escape  into  doorways  or  side 
streets.  A  tremendous  rhythmic  howling  went  up  from  it: 

Hein-hein-hein!  Hoo!  Hoo! 
Hein-hein-hein!  Hoo!  Hoo! 

(The  rhythm  was  that  of  Al-ge-rie  Frangaise!) 

I  was  not  among  those  that  escaped.  I  wanted  to  know 
what  this  thing  was,  and  what  the  howling  meant.  I  found 
myself  linked  arm  in  arm  with  two  young  Frenchmen,  of 
whom  I  remember  only  the  one  on  the  right,  an  under- 
sized boy,  with  thin  face  and  bulging  eyes. 

Hein-hein-hein!  Hoo!  Hoo! 

resolved  itself  into: 

A  Berlin!  Tons!  Tous! 

and  out  of  politeness,  out  of  timidity,  out  of  whatever  it 
was,  I  began  to  chant  with  them,  feeling  like  a  fool. 



A  Berlin!  Tous!  Tous! 

As  we  drew  close  to  the  Place  de  F Opera,  another  chorus 
swelled  on  us  from  behind,  mingling  with  ours  and  over- 
whelming it.  At  first  it  sounded  like: 

Omheheho!  Ombebeho!  Ombe: 
Ombebeho!  Ombebeho!  Ombe! 

That  resolved  itself  into: 

Conspuez  Guillaume!  Conspuez  Guillaume!  Conspuez! 

A  curious  and  beastly  tickling  of  excitement,  which 
made  me  feel  like  an  even  bigger  fool,  was  manifesting 
itself  in  my  viscera.  The  boy  on  my  right  flung  his  head 
from  side  to  side.  In  another  minute  or  two,  I  thought,  I 
too  was  going  to  have  a  fit.  As  we  turned  off  into  the  rue 
Royale,  a  third  chorus  was  sent  forward  to  us  from  the 

C'est  r Alsace  et  la  Lorraine^ 
C'est  r Alsace  qu'il  nous  faut! 

Other  crowds,  converging  from  the  Left  Bank  and  down 
the  Champs  Elysees,  joined  with  ours  in  the  Place  de  la 
Concorde,  and  a  wild  demonstration  was  staged  before 
the  statue  of  Strassburg,  which  had  been  in  mourning  for 
over  fifty  years. 

I  had  been  at  demonstrations  before,  election  crowds 
and  political  rallies.  I  remember  how,  when  it  was  a  ques- 
tion of  increasing  the  Royal  Navy  by  eight  battleships, 
there  was  great  agitation,  and  at  one  very  large  political 
rally  a  speaker  who  opposed  the  increase  was  silenced  for 
several  minutes  by  an  audience  which  chanted  nothing 


We  want  eight! 
And  we  won't  wait! 

I  remember  other,  similar  occasions,  but  I  had  never 
known  anything  quite  like  this.  The  beastly  tickling  in 
my  stomach  was  spreading  through  me;  it  threatened  to 
develop  into  a  maniacal  seizure.  I  fought  it  down,  I  fought 
it  back,  repeating  to  myself  something  like:  "Idiot!  You 
need  Alsace  and  Lorraine  like  a  hole  in  the  head!"  And 
it  was  amazing  how  this  obvious  fact  refused  to  stay  put 
in  front  of  my  mind,  how  it  kept  wriggling  away  out  of 
my  grip,  as  if  it  suffered  acute  anguish  when  it  was  looked 

The  mob!  That  was  where  I  first  met  it  in  its  naked 
form.  The  mob!  At  its  most  "useful"  it  is  like  a  gangster 
whom  we  hire  to  rid  us  of  another  gangster,  and  who 
takes  over  in  his  place,  remaining  a  gangster  still. 

I  am  prone  to  read  premonitions  into  my  memories;  I 
may  be  wrong  in  thinking  that  this  incident  in  Paris 
gave  me  my  first  conscious  feel  of  mob  psychology;  but 
I  cannot  be  wrong  in  thinking  that  the  incident  was  to 
stand  out  for  me  in  years  to  come  as  the  prototype  of  all 
the  mob  scenes,  all  the  mob  forces,  that  have  been  involved 
in  the  shaping  of  recent  history.  Not  that  the  mob  is  a 
new  thing.  Moses  several  thousands  of  years  ago  sternly 
warned  his  people  against  it!  "Thou  shalt  not  follow  a 
multitude  to  do  evil."  He  did  not,  by  way  of  balance, 
issue  the  positive  command:  "Thou  shalt  follow  a  multi- 
tude to  do  good."  Goodness  cannot  issue  from  mob  in- 

Before  the  twentieth  century,  mob  manipulation  had 
not  become  a  science,  with  psychologists  and  scenarists 
at  its  command.  What  I  saw  in  Paris  that  evening  was 
primitive  and,  I  believe,  relatively  spontaneous.  What  we 
have  seen  and  heard  of  since  then  in  the  way  of  mobs  is 



almost  in  another  category;  and  what  our  children  and 
grandchildren  may  yet  see  is  something  we  seldom  think 
of;  for  though  there  is  much  proper  concern  about  the 
feeding  and  housing  of  a  world  population  of  six  billion, 
or  ten  billion,  little  thought  is  given  to  guarding  against 
mob  psychology  when  America  will  have  a  population  of 
half  a  billion  and  China  of  a  billion  and  a  half. 

I  used  to  think  that  creators  of  mob  psychologies — and 
for  that  matter  nearly  all  those  who  held  what  I  con- 
sidered reactionary  views — were  consciously  wicked  men, 
salauds  (sons-of-bitches,  Sartre's  favorite  word).  I  was  still 
of  that  conviction  five  years  later,  during  my  second  long 
stay  in  Paris,  in  1919,  when  in  American  uniform,  I 
was  working  in  the  Hotel  Crillon,  one  of  the  headquarters 
of  the  peace  delegations.  But  I  was  myself  in  a  mood  of 
mob  enthusiasm  for  Wilson  and  the  League  of  Nations, 
and  of  hatred  of  Clemenceau  and  Lloyd  George  (Orlando 
made  no  impression  on  me).  I  had  a  genuine  personal 
hatred  of  Lloyd  George  for  his  Khaki  Election  campaign, 
held  soon  after  the  victory  (Hitler  was  to  write  admiringly 
of  Lloyd  George  as  a  master  demagogue,  in  Mein  Kampf). 
But  the  chief  focus  of  my  fury  and  contempt  was  a  certain 
Sir  Eric  Geddes,  one  of  Lloyd  George's  lieutenants,  be- 
cause of  the  powerful  slogan  he  coined  at  the  time:  "We're 
going  to  squeeze  the  Germans  until  the  pips  squeak!" 

That  stunned  me.  I  held  Germany  to  be  more  guilty 
than  the  Allies,  I  thought  some  reparation  was  due  if 
only  in  token  of  this  fact,  but  I  asked:  "What  kind  of  man 
can  this  Geddes  be?  What  does  he  think  he's  up  to,  and 
what  kind  of  contribution  does  he  think  he's  making  to 
the  stabilization  of  Europe  and  the  world  after  'the  war 
to  end  war'?" 

These  were  rhetorical  questions.  I  had  the  answers;  he 
was  a  wicked  man,  a  low  man.  He  did  not  see  himself 
making,  he  did  not  want  to  make,  a  contribution  to  the 



Stabilization  of  Europe  and  the  world.  On  the  contrary. 
...  I  thought:  I'd  like  to  get  hold  of  that  man;  I'd  like  to 
look  him  straight  in  the  eye  and  ask  him:  "What  the  hell 
are  you  driving  at,  Sir?" 

But  there  wasn't  much  likelihood  that  I  would  ever  get 
hold  of  Sir  Eric  Geddes;  I  was  a  sergeant  in  the  A.E.F., 
and  he  was  a  Knight  and  a  Minister  in  His  Britannic 
Majesty's  Government. 

Life,  in  the  peculiar  way  it  has,  arranged  a  meeting.  I 
had  a  long  and  friendly  chat  with  Sir  Eric  Geddes  on 
Christmas  eve,  1933,  in  Khartoum.  We  had  flown  up  to- 
gether from  Johannesburg,  and  I  sat  with  him  for  an  hour 
or  so  before  dinner.  He  was  an  attractive  and  knowledge- 
able man.  I  had  been  watching  him  for  three  days,  ad- 
miring his  massive  head,  his  unself-consciousness,  his 
graceful  carriage.  He  talked  easily,  a  man  secure  in  achieve- 
ment and  reputation,  first  about  the  oddity  of  the  scene — 
Christmas  decorations  near  the  equator  and  black  men 
hanging  up  artificial  holly.  "Though  after  all,"  he  said, 
"the  Christian  part  of  Christmas  originated  nearer  the 
equator  than  we  usually  remember."  Then  he  spoke  about 
Christmases  he  had  observed  in  other  parts  of  the  world. 
He  boasted  pleasantly:  "I've  been  in  every  one  of  your 
forty-eight  states."  A  man  of  wide  experience,  solid  in- 
telligence, admirable  culture,  serious,  personable,  attrac- 
tive. A  wicked,  low  man?  A  salaud?  Ridiculous!  I  turned 
the  conversation  strategically  to  the  need  of  a  suprana- 
tional outlook  on  world  affairs. 

"Oh,  yes,"  he  said.  "We  must  have  a  new  system." 

"Especially  in  our  teaching  of  the  public,"  I  suggested. 

"In  that  above  all." 

I  had  my  opening.  "Sir  Eric,"  I  said,  "may  I  ask  you  a 
rather  personal  question  which  goes  back  a  number  of 

He  looked  a  little  astonished.  "By  all  means." 



"In  the  Khaki  Election  you  coined  a  slogan:  'We're 
going  to  squeeze  the  Germans  till  the  pips  squeak.'  What 
were  you  thinking  of?" 

He  leaned  back  and  laughed  delightedly.  "You  know, 
I've  been  asked  that  question,  one  way  or  another,  several 
times.  I  didn't  think  I'd  meet  it  in  Khartoum." 

"And  what  did  you  answer.  Sir  Eric?" 

"I  answered:  'Yes,  wasn't  that  a  perfectly  silly  thing  to 
say!'  " 

I  didn't  know  what  to  make  of  that.  In  a  way,  I  still 
don't.  There  is  something  about  it  so  disarming — in  the 
literal  sense  of  the  word.  I  wonder  what  I  would  have  felt 
and  said  if  I  had  got  that  answer  from  Sir  Eric  in  1919. 

In  those  days  life  and  human  beings  and  the  course  of 
history  didn't  look  to  me  as  complicated  and  baffling  and 
recalcitrant  as  they  do  now.  My  optimisms  of  early  1914 
had  not  only  survived  the  Great  War,  they  were  livelier 
and  more  self-assured  than  ever.  Mankind  had  at  last 
learned  its  lesson.  A  benevolent  supranational  organization 
was  going  to  take  over  the  management  of  human  affairs, 
the  Clemenceaus  and  Lloyd  Georges  and  Sir  Erics  and 
Senator  Lodges  notwithstanding.  Yes,  a  new  era  was 
dawning.  Little  nations  as  well  as  big  ones,  the  Jews  and 
all  other  peoples,  were  to  have  their  wrongs  righted,  their 
future  secured,  by  a  high-minded  World  Authority.  There 
would  of  course  be  an  interim  period  of  turbulence  here 
and  there,  but  that  was  only  natural. 

Chaim  Weizmann  was  then  in  Paris,  heading  the  dele- 
gation that  was  presenting  the  Zionist  cause  to  a  sym- 
pathetic Peace  Conference.  He  was  by  then — and  would 
remain  for  the  rest  of  his  life — a  world  figure.  I  saw  him 
once  or  twice  at  a  distance,  and  my  heart  swelled  with 
pride.  (I  did  not  dare  to  approach  him;  I  took  it  for 
granted  that  he  had  forgotten  me,  and  was  glad  of  it.)  This 



man  was  the  architect  of  the  Balfour  Declaration  of  1917; 
if  the  Jewish  claim  to  a  homeland  was  now  on  the  inter- 
national ordre  du  jour,  Weizmann's  role  in  placing  it  there 
overshadowed  everyone  else's.  But  the  homeland  was  not 
all.  The  Jewish  minorities  of  Eastern  Europe,  like  all 
other  substantial  minorities,  were  to  be  safeguarded  by 
international  law  in  the  enjoyment  of  their  cultural  iden- 
tities. What  more  could  one  ask? 

To  be  sure,  there  had  been  murderous  outbreaks  against 
the  Jews  in  Poland,  and  it  made  one  sick  that  after  more 
than  a  century  of  foreign  occupation  and  oppression  a 
country  should  celebrate  in  this  fashion  the  new-found 
freedom  which  others  had  bestowed  on  it.  But  I  was 
willing  to  allow  for  a  turbulent  interim  period.  Pockets 
of  unregenerate  prewar  viciousness,  backwardness,  and 
stupidity  were  bound  to  linger  here  and  there.  They  would 
soon  be  flushed  out  by  the  triumphant  forces  of  progress. 
I  wince  as  I  set  down  this  bombast;  but  that  is  the  way  I 
thought  and  talked. 

Two  important  episodes  belong  to  that  Paris  time:  a 
seven-week  spell  as  secretary-interpreter  on  the  Polish 
Pogrom  Commission  headed  by  Henry  Morgenthau 
senior;  a  twelve-month  spell  as  interpreter  on  the  Repara- 
tions Commissions  in  Berlin  and  Vienna.  The  visit  to 
Poland  fell  within  the  period  of  my  army  service;  on  the 
Reparations  Commissions  I  worked  as  a  civilian.  Each 
Commission  separately  strengthened  me  in  the  conviction, 
long  since  abandoned,  that  the  world's  troubles  come 
solely  from  the  wickedness  of  men  at  the  top. 

I  was  demobilized  in  Paris  in  September  1919,  and  to- 
gether with  an  army  buddy  opened,  at  19  rue  St.  Roche,  a 
secretarial  service  called  The  Franco-American  Public 
Stenographer.  Paris  was  then  full  of  American  business- 
men, and  we  made  good  money.  The  stenography  I  learned 


for  the  enterprise  came  in  handy  when  I  got  a  job  as 
interpreter  on  the  Reparations  Commission.  Simultaneous 
translation  over  a  transistor  system  was  of  course  unknown 
then.  Each  speaker  at  an  international  conference  had  his 
say,  in  shorter  or  longer  pieces;  the  interpreter  took  it 
down  and  gave  it  out  in  one  of  the  official  languages.  It 
was  exhilarating  work,  full  of  rapid-fire  and  tricky  lin- 
guistic challenges;  it  was  also  very  well  paid. 

But  that  was  not  why  I  took  it  on.  The  writing  for 
which  I  had  had  myself  demobilized  in  Paris  had  come 
to  a  dead  end.  The  Left  Bank,  which  was  then  assembling 
its  expatriates  of  the  American  "lost  generation,"  had  be- 
come tiresome.  I  was  fed  up  with  the  blather  at  the 
Coupole  and  the  Cafe  du  Dome.  My  experience  with  the 
Polish  Pogrom  Commission — which  I  shall  describe  in 
detail — had  shaken  me  up  badly;  I  was  beginning  to  feel 
that  the  Jewish  problem,  like  many  others,  was  not  by  a 
long  way  on  the  point  of  solution:  the  wickedness  of  men 
in  power  symbolized  a  far  greater  obstacle  than  I  had 
imagined,  and  Lord  Acton  had  been  only  too  right.  My 
experience  on  the  Reparations  Commission  confirmed  my 

The  officials  whom  it  was  my  duty  to  interpret  for  in 
French  and  English  were  not  in  the  front  rank  of  the 
famous.  I  never  heard  again  of  Sir  Philip  Goodenough  of 
England,  or  of  Dr.  Zaghradnik  of  Czechoslovakia,  or  of 
M.  Tsouderos  of  Greece,  unless  the  last  is  the  one  who 
became  Prime  Minister.  They  were  intelligent  men;  their 
work  was  important;  but  my  memory  and  my  notes  do 
not  testify  to  a  single  exchange  of  views  that  could  by  a 
generous  estimate  be  considered  on  a  level  either  with 
their  capacities  or  with  the  seriousness  of  the  time.  I  recall 
much  squabbling  over  the  allocation  of  loot,  precedence, 
and  credit  for  victory.  I  recall  an  atmosphere  of  excessive 


nationalist  sensitivity,  and  of  an  indifference  to  the  con- 
dition of  the  vanquished.  And  I  recall  a  certain  M. 

M.  Klobukowski  was  an  elderly,  pink-faced,  white- 
mustachioed  French  Assistant-Minister  who  came  to  us 
from  Paris  to  discuss  an  Austrian  petition  for  a  downward 
revision  of  the  costs  of  the  Reparations  Commission.  M. 
Klobukowski  summed  up  his  refusal  with  Gallic  Charm: 
"Messieurs^  fai  essaye  de  mal  diner  a  Vienne,  mais  je  n'ai 
pas  reussi — I  have  tried  to  dine  badly  in  Vienna,  and  I 
have  failed."  The  Austrian  kroner  had  climbed  to  the  ten- 
thousand-per-dollar  mark  and  was  poised  for  its  subse- 
quent flight  into  the  billions;  at  the  Bristol  Hotel,  at  flashy 
cafes  like  Tonello's  and  Sachet's,  the  hangouts  of  the 
Schieber  (black-market  profiteers)  and  foreign  correspond- 
ents, one  did  indeed  fare  luxuriously  for  next  to  nothing 
in  foreign  exchange;  but  the  streets  of  Vienna  swarmed 
with  beggars,  and  a  blight  of  hunger  and  hopelessness  lay 
on  the  city.  M.  Klobukowski  had  tried  to  dine  badly  in 
Vienna,  and  had  failed.  It  was  not  the  refusal  of  the  peti- 
tion that  horrified  me;  it  was  the  blasted  wickedness  of 
the  form.  I  choked  when  I  had  to  interpret. 

The  last  of  my  significant  contacts  with  Paris  was  in 
August  1939,  not  a  sojourn  but  a  five-day  pause  in  transit. 
The  New  York  Post  had  commissioned  me  to  write,  from 
on  board,  the  story  of  one  of  the  boats  laden  with  Jewish 
refugees  which  were  crawling  over  the  Mediterranean, 
forbidden  to  make  port  in  Palestine  or  anywhere  else.  I 
got  to  Paris  the  day  the  Hitler-Stalin  pact  was  signed,  and 
my  assignment  collapsed.  Nobody  would  be  interested  in 
the  story.  There  was  barely  time  to  run  down  to  Basle, 
where  the  Zionist  Congress  was  closing  its  sessions,  and 
to  get  back  to  London  via  Paris. 

In  the  Paris  of  August  1939  there  were  no  demonstra- 


tions  like  those  that  flared  up  in  1914,  no  hein-hein-hein 
hoo!  hoo!,  no  madness.  Even  before  the  blackout  was 
ordered,  no  evening  crowds  congregated  in  the  boulevards 
or  the  Place  de  la  Concorde.  I  saw  only  little  knots  of 
people,  for  the  most  part  silent,  before  the  offices  of  Paris 
Soir  and  Le  Matin,  scanning  the  bulletins.  I  saw  scraw- 
lings  on  the  walls:  Mieux  vaut  Hitler  que  Blum — better 
Hitler  than  Leon  Blum."  In  London  no  singing  of  Tip- 
perary.  1939  was  reaping  what  the  years  since  1918  had 

I  go  back  to  fill  a  hiatus.  From  my  Paris  visit  of  1914  I 
returned  to  Manchester  late  in  August,  when  the  Germans 
were  at  the  Marne  and  the  government  was  preparing  to 
evacuate  to  Bordeaux.  (It  got  there  in  1940.  Bordeaux!  It 
was  only  a  name  to  me  then,  but  I  was  to  spend  the  better 
part  of  a  year  there,  1918-1919,  attached  to  Gil,  counter- 
espionage.) I  managed  to  get  on  one  of  the  last  trains 
permitted  to  leave  Paris  for  the  north,  and  during  the 
go-stop-go-stop  journey  I  saw  the  beginnings  of  that  hid- 
eous phenomenon  which  has  since  then  become  a  universal 
commonplace — a  population  in  flight  ("fleeing  from  the 
foreign  faces  and  the  foreign  swords"),  desperate  men  and 
women,  weeping  children,  jammed  railroad  stations  and 
carriages,  and  bundles,  bundles,  bundles,  baskets,  pillows, 
bottles,  pots  and  pans  and  kettles  and  toys.  A  dissolving 
world — but  only  a  miniature  of  what  was  to  be  a  quarter 
of  a  century  later.  And  in  Calais  I  saw  the  famous  London 
buses  being  rushed  to  the  front.  Some  of  the  buses  had 
advertisements  running  along  the  top.  Potash  and  Perl- 
mutter,  Montague  Glass's  play,  the  hit  of  that  season;  and 
crowds  lining  the  streets  of  Calais  cheered  them  on  with: 
"Vive  Potash!  Vive  Perlmoutaire!" 



In  the  Paris  of  August  1914,  I  also  saw  the  beginning 
of  something  as  symptomatic  of  later  calamity  as  the  refu- 
gees, namely,  the  bigger  and  better  queues.  Oh,  that 
waiting  in  loathsome  couloirs ^  that  going  from  office  to 
office,  that  subjection  to  jack-in-offices!  I  learned  a  new 
law:  Put  a  man  behind  a  desk  and  he'll  want  the  world 
to  stand  in  line. 

Three  miserable  months  ensued  for  me.  It  is  easy  to 
say:  "I  was  a  pacifist  and  refused  to  join  up."  It  was  not 
so  easy  to  sustain  the  refusal.  I  doubt  whether  my  "prin- 
ciples" were  determinant;  a  powerful  deterrent  was  pride, 
the  dread  of  ridicule:  "Look  at  him!  The  socialist-pacifist, 
the  Norman  Angellite!  One  drum  roll  and  he's  off!"  Self- 
ridicule  and  the  ridicule  of  others.  I  was  therefore  the 
more  scornful  of  fellow-socialists  who  defected.  And  all 
the  time  there  was  a  tug  at  the  heart  to  take  the  irrevoca- 
ble step,  to  be  done  with  the  suspicion  that  I  was  simply 
a  coward.  And  then  again,  on  the  other  hand:  "It'll  all  be 
over  by  Christmas  anyhow." 

And,  oddly  enough,  I  was  becoming  more  Jewish  in  my 
feelings  all  the  time.  There  was  no  road-to-Damascus 
conversion,  only  a  steady  deepening  of  conviction,  or  pre- 
conviction. I  won't  try  to  psychoanalyze  myself;  I  only 
make  a  guess  that  in  the  big  upset  my  fundamental  values 
were  beginning  to  assert  themselves. 

I  got  a  clerical  job.  September  and  October  passed. 
"Next  spring"  took  the  place  of  Christmas  as  the  terminal 
of  the  war;  I  grew  more  restive,  more  irresolute.  My 
mother  urged  me  to  go  to  America;  my  father  said:  "The 
sons  of  the  noblest  English  families  are  lying  in  the 
trenches."  There  was  discord  in  the  house.  I  quarreled 
with  my  father,  argued  socialism  with  him  in  my  pidgin 
Yiddish,  and  exchanged  insults  with  him.  My  quarrels 
with  my  father  had  something  to  do  with  my  final  decision. 



My  father  was  no  longer  a  shoemaker.  He  had  opened 
a  shoeshop  on  Bury  New  Road  and  had  failed;  he  had 
opened  a  grocery  shop  on  Sussex  Street  and  had  failed; 
now  he  was  working  as  a  presser  in  a  large  clothing  factory 
in  which  my  two  older  brothers  were  the  managers.  The 
factory  was  flourishing  on  war  orders,  and  my  father,  now 
in  his  fifties,  was  making  more  money  than  ever  before 
in  his  life,  but  under  a  terrible  physical  strain  (all  the 
members  of  my  family  have  been  addicted  to  overwork). 
He  very  much  wanted  to  have  a  son  of  his  in  the  army,  a 
renewal  of  himself.  When  I  came  home  on  leave  from 
France  in  December  1919,  in  my  American  uniform,  he 
could  not  take  his  eyes  off  me.  He  kept  repeating,  dream- 
ily: "Der  serjent,  der  serjent."  He  would  not  believe  that 
I  had  seen  no  fighting,  that  in  France  I  had  been  trans- 
ferred from  the  infantry  to  Intelligence.  He  would  have 
it  that  I  was  suppressing,  lest  it  come  to  my  mother's  ears, 
participation  in  desperate  melees  from  which — since  there 
was  no  evidence  of  a  wound — I  had  emerged  miraculously 

Well,  then,  I  left  for  America  on  the  S.S.  Adriatic  on 
November  14,  1914.  Incredible  as  it  may  sound  today,  all 
I  had  to  do  was  buy  a  ticket  (third  class,  five  pounds — a 
little  less  than  thirty  dollars)  and  get  on  the  boat;  no 
quotas,  no  interviews,  no  forms,  no  consulates,  no  pass- 
port, no  visa.  I  was  to  be  in  America  for  a  few  months,  a 
year  at  the  outset.  Then  I  would  come  back  and  take  up 
as  if  nothing  had  happened.  I  did  not  come  back,  except 
for  visits  over  the  years. 


ijOt       -l-T,-.        ifllfe 

^^       179        ^3 



S  Chaim  Weizmann 





HE  Manchester  o£  my  boyhood  was  the  world- 
renowned  center  of  the  cotton-goods  trade.  "Cottonopolis" 
it  called  itself,  and  was;  its  overseas  rivals,  in  New  England 
and  Japan,  were  only  flexing  their  muscles  in  those  days. 
In  the  factory  areas  of  Manchester  and  of  the  towns  ring- 
ing it  you  could  hear,  mornings  and  evenings,  the  rush  of 
the  cataracts  of  wooden  clogs — the  weavers  going  to  and 
from  work.  It  was  said  that  on  a  clear  Sunday  morning 
ten  thousand  factory  chimneys  could  be  counted  from  the 
top  of  the  Town  Hall  tower  in  Albert  Square;  the  grimi- 
ness  of  the  tower,  as  of  every  other  building,  was  strong 
supporting  testimony. 

But  Manchester  had  cultural  eminence,  too.  It  was  the 
home  of  the  famous  Homiman  Repertoire  Theatre,  the 
joint  product  of  Horniman's  Tea  and  Miss  Horniman's 
passion  for  the  stage;  it  was  the  home  of  the  Halle  Con- 
certs, of  The  Manchester  Guardian,  second  in  reputation, 
if  second  at  all,  to  The  London  Times,  and  of  Manchester 
University,  the  roster  of  whose  faculty  carried  names 
which  still  echo  in  the  world  of  science  and  the  humanities. 

Ernest  Rutherford  taught  physics  there,  and  Niels  Bohr 
was  his  assistant.  Henry  Moseley,  the  young  genius  who 


was  killed  in  the  First  World  War,  had  also  worked  there 
under  Rutherford.  Flinders  Petrie  lectured  on  Egyptology, 
and  James  Frazer  of  The  Golden  Bough  came  over  occa- 
sionally from  the  sister  university  of  Liverpool  to  lecture 
on  anthropology.  Samuel  Alexander  taught  philosophy; 
he  was  already  a  name,  though  he  had  not  yet  published 
his  Time,  Space  and  Deity.  Arthur  Schuster  and  Chaim 
Weizmann  and  the  younger  Perkins  taught  chemistry, 
and  Horace  Lamb  mathematics. 

I  can  always  cause  a  little  flutter  in  scientific  company 
by  mentioning  casually  that  I  studied  physics  under  Ernest 
Rutherford  ("And  did  you  once  see  Shelley  plain?"). 
True,  Rutherford  taught  the  old,  classical  physics;  the 
revolutionary  experiments  he  was  then  conducting  on  the 
structure  of  the  atom  were  too  new  to  be  offered  to  his 
students;  Einstein's  Special  Theory  of  Relativity  had 
already  been  published,  but  not  his  General  Theory;  the 
Bohr  model  of  the  atom  (itself  now  called  classical)  had 
not  yet  been  given  to  the  world;  the  quantum  was  known, 
but  quantum  mechanics  was  still  a  long  way  off.  And  yet 
— physics  under  Rutherford!  Something  must  have  rubbed 
off  on  me.  I  am  not  believed  when  I  deny  it.  But  Ruther- 
ford was  one  of  my  many  lost  opportunities.  All  I  have  of 
him  is  a  personal  recollection:  a  burly,  genial  man,  easily 
moved  to  laughter,  and  a  superb  teacher,  holding,  with  a 
single  exception,  the  attention  of  his  large  class  by  force 
of  personality  and  ingenuity  of  exposition.  I  have  tried  to 
explain  the  source  of  my  resistance  to  him,  perhaps  too 
kindly;  but  there  it  was.  To  top  it  all,  I  was  chosen  by  the 
class  to  express  its  pride  and  gratification  when  he  re- 
turned from  receiving  his  knighthood  (he  became  Lord 
Rutherford  later) ;  a  more  incongruous  choice  could  hardly 
have  been  imagined. 

Perkins  and  Schuster  I  did  not  meet;  if  I  heard  Frazer 
lecture,  as  is  likely,  I  have  forgotten  him,  and  of  Flinders 



Petrie  I  have  only  the  dimmest  recollection.  I  attended 
one  class  under  Horace  Lamb  with  no  benefit  whatsoever, 
and  I  remember  a  mild  and  gentle  spirit  detached  from 
this  world  and  from  his  students,  who  complained  that  he 
confided  his  expositions  to  the  blackboard,  not  to  them. 
My  English  teacher,  Herford,  is  also  a  remote  figure,  but 
Samuel  Alexander,  whom  I  met  once  or  twice,  stands,  or 
rather  walks  and  rides,  clearly  before  me.  It  was  more  a 
shamble  than  a  walk,  and  the  sight  of  him  on  a  bicycle, 
familiar  though  it  was,  moved  the  beholders  to  mirth  and 
solicitude.  He  was  a  big,  stooping  man  with  a  huge  beard, 
and  looked  like  a  cross  between  an  old  clo'man  and  a 
Hebrew  Prophet.  He  rode  his  bicycle  meditatively,  on  the 
sidewalk  as  often  as  not,  miraculous  in  balance  and  in 
escape  from  collisions.  We  pointed  to  him  affectionately 
as  our  specimen,  the  finest  extant,  and  the  finest  in  uni- 
versity history  since  Hegel,  of  the  absent-minded  professor. 
It  was  told  of  him  that  a  policeman  once  asked  him  gently 
to  ride  off  the  sidewalk  onto  the  traffic  level,  and  was  waved 
off  with  the  dreamy  reply:  "Not  now,  I  have  just  found 
God."  It  was  also  told  that  he  was  the  owner  of  a  meta- 
physical dog  by  the  name  of  Griff,  short  for  the  German 
Begriff  (concept). 

I  could  have  known  him  better,  for  he  was  accessible 
to  all  students,  but  I  was  too  raw  and  too  conceited  to 
use  the  opportunity,  which  never  came  again.  Another 
opportunity  which  I  neglected  at  the  time,  and  which 
came  my  way  again,  to  my  life's  enrichment,  was  Chaim 


I  made  my  first  contact  with  him  when  I  enrolled  in 
one  of  his  chemistry  courses,  and  at  the  interview  I  was 
too  nervous  to  retain  a  clear  picture  of  him.  He  examined 



me  briefly  and  suggested  that  I  sit  in  on  one  or  two  of  his 
lectures.  I  remember,  however,  my  astonishment  that  a 
man  with  such  a  heavy  Russian-Jewish  accent  should  be 
a  chemistry  professor.  I  was  not  thinking  of  discrimina- 
tion; I  just  could  not  reconcile  Yiddish  with  chemistry 
or  anything  else  modern  and  scientific.  I  must  have  sup- 
posed that  an  adult  mind  tinctured  with  Yiddish  had  been 
permanently  affected.  I  could  not  follow  his  lectures  and 
I  put  it  down  to  his  accent,  which,  curiously  enough,  was 
no  obstacle  to  the  other  students.  At  his  suggestion  I 
changed  to  physics  under  Rutherford,  whose  accent  was 
colonial  but  otherwise  impeccable;  as  we  have  seen,  this 
linguistic  improvement  was  not  reflected  in  my  phvsics 

I  met  Weizmann  again  two  years  later  in  the  house  of 
Isaiah  Wassilevsky,  the  Hebrew  teacher  who  introduced 
me  to  Bialik's  Yiddish  poetry.  The  memory  of  this  en- 
counter is  uncomfortable  and  uneven;  vivid  patches  alter- 
nate with  areas  faded  almost  into  invisibility.  I  see  the 
room,  the  armchair  under  the  window  in  which  Weiz- 
mann is  seated;  I  see  the  bookshelves  and  the  table;  I 
hear  his  voice,  low-pitched,  guttural,  slyly  good-natured. 
But  I  cannot  remember  why  I  was  there,  accidentally  or 
by  arrangement,  and  sometimes  it  is  not  Wassilevsky  who 
hovers  in  the  background,  but  Massel,  the  Hebrew  poet, 
who  also  lived  in  that  area;  and  I  cannot  remember  being 
reintroduced  to  Weizmann,  or  even  his  noticing  me,  let 
alone  addressing  a  remark  to  me.  Most  vivid  is  my  recol- 
lection that  I  wanted  to  be  rude  to  him,  and,  as  I  already 
knew  him  to  be  a  prominent  Zionist,  tell  him  that  I  con- 
sidered the  Zionist  movement  a  paltry,  shabby  affair, 
morally  indefensible  and  intellectually  beneath  contempt. 
This  need  not  mean  that  I  was  then  in  one  of  my  violent 
anti-Jewish   phases.   Perhaps   I   do  not  remember  being 



noticed  or  addressed  because  I  thought  at  the  time  that  he 
did  not  recognize  me;  and  perhaps  I  thought  he  did 
recognize  me  and  was  sparing  me  the  embarrassment  of  a 
tacit  reference  to  my  disappearance  from  his  chemistry 
class.  Whatever  it  was,  I  made  up  my  mind  to  dislike  him. 

The  next  time  I  met  him  was  in  1922,  when  I  was  in 
the  employ  of  the  Zionist  Organization  of  America,  and 
by  then  he  was  the  world  leader  of  the  movement.  The 
moment  he  set  eyes  on  me  he  said,  with  a  smile  that  went 
through  and  through  me:  "Why,  yes,  you're  the  fellow  I 
chucked  out  of  my  chemistry  class."  It  hadn't  been  quite  so, 
though  next  door  to  it;  but  his  manner  of  saying  it  made 
me  feel,  still  makes  me  feel  in  retrospect,  that  he  was  ad- 
ministering a  friendly  and  facetious  rebuke  for  my  sullen- 
ness  at  our  encounter  in  Wassilevsky's  (or  Massel's)  house, 
ten  years  or  so  earlier.  Lest  this  should  sound  like  vanity,  I 
add  that  his  memory  for  faces,  names,  and  personalities 
was  of  unbelievable  tenacity;  it  extended  to  thousands  of 
individuals  in  a  dozen  countries.  A  one-minute  encounter 
sufficed  to  make  a  permanent  impression  on  him,  filed 
away  and  subject  to  instantaneous  recall  twenty  or  thirty 
years  later.  If  I  was  immensely  flattered  at  the  moment,  I 
learned  to  see  the  incident  in  perspective  after  working 
with  him  for  a  few  weeks. 

When  the  Organization  assigned  me  to  act  as  his  secre- 
tary during  his  stay  in  New  York,  I  was  as  happy  as  when 
Miss  Clarke  had  smiled  on  me.  The  assignment  was  re- 
peated several  times,  till  I  left  the  employ  of  the  Organiza- 
tion, and  I  looked  forward  with  increasing  happiness  to 
every  repetition.  My  service  with  the  Zionist  Organization 
ran  from  my  twenty-seventh  to  my  thirty-third  year;  I  was 
not  and  am  not  a  hero-worshipper;  the  happiness  I  found 
in  working  with  Weizmann  was  not  simply  the  pride  of 
being  on  close  terms  with  greatness;  it  was  perhaps  partly 



that,  but  if  so,  it  was  his  peculiar  greatness,  which  had  im- 
mense meaning  for  me  in  cultural-spiritual  terms;  and 
with  this  was  mingled  a  deep  personal  affection. 

It  was  an  affection  that  remained  steadfast  to  the  end; 
my  admiration  changed,  became  more  thoughtful,  more 
critical,  and  far  more  appreciative,  as  the  record  of  his 
achievements  accumulated.  When  I  left  the  Zionist  Or- 
ganization to  become  a  freelance  writer  and  lecturer,  I 
maintained  contact  with  him  for  longer  or  shorter  periods 
at  longer  or  shorter  intervals.  We  would  meet  in  New 
York,  in  London,  and  in  Israel.  The  last  and  longest  con- 
tact— it  would  have  been  the  happiest  had  we  been  less 
concerned  for  his  health — was  in  1947,  when  I  worked 
with  him  for  some  months  on  his  autobiography,  Trial  and 
Error.  He  was  then  seventy-three  and  at  the  beginning  of 
the  sickness  he  lingered  in  for  the  next  five  years. 


For  me,  Chaim  Weizmann  personifies,  more  than  any 
other  man  I  have  known,  the  best  that  was  in  the  Shtetl 
Jew  combined  with  the  qualities  of  worldly  greatness,  and 
the  more  I  ponder  the  mixture  the  more  intriguing  I  find 
it.  He  was  at  home  among  statesmen,  but  his  spiritual 
home  continued  to  be  the  townlet  of  Motol-near-Pinsk,  in 
the  Pripet  marshes,  where,  he  tells  us,  "Jews  lived,  as  they 
had  lived  for  many  generations,  scattered  islands  in  a  gen- 
tile ocean;  and  among  them  my  own  people,  on  my  father's 
and  mother's  side,  made  up  a  not  inconsiderable  propor- 
tion." He  spoke  many  languages  well,  he  was  most  himself 
in  Yiddish.  He  had  a  commanding  and  arresting  presence; 
when  he  entered  a  room  it  became  his;  relaxed,  among 
intimates,  he  was  still  the  center  of  attention,  but  by  virtue 
of  a  Sholom  Aleichem  warmth  and  wit.  He  was  a  scientist 



of  international  repute;  but  to  him,  as  to  my  people  in 
Manchester,  the  Bible  was  the  supreme  source  of  life,  and 
its  figures  were  his  contemporaries.  He  had  been  brought 
up  with  them.  Science  was  his  instrument  for  the  rebuild- 
ing of  the  Jewish  homeland;  the  Bible  was  his  inspiration. 
"Inspiration"  is  somewhat  misleading;  it  suggests  perhaps 
an  exalted  remoteness  where  there  was  a  homey  familiarity 
as  well  as  reverence.  He  was  familiar  with  Abraham, 
Moses,  and  Isaiah  in  a  spirit  of  neighborliness.  So  were 
my  people;  so  was  Sholom  Aleichem's  Tevyeh  the  Dairy- 

He  loved  and  hated  the  Shtetl  just  as  Mendelle  Mocher 
Sforim  had  done.  He  loved  it  for  the  vision  it  had  guarded 
for  him,  he  hated  it  for  the  formlessness  of  its  life,  its 
surrender  to  meanness  and  self-pity  and  shlimihlishness. 
He  was,  supremely,  the  man  of  form.  Whether  in  sub- 
mitting a  memorandum  to  the  British  Foreign  Office,  or 
in  planning  his  Rehovoth  home,  he  had  a  perfect  instinct 
for  the  right  stance.  He  prepared  carefully,  but  could  im- 
provise brilliantly.  I  am  tempted  to  say  that  he  knew  all 
the  tricks  of  being  enormously  impressive,  and  yet  there 
was  no  trickery;  his  impressiveness  flowed  from  uncal- 
culated  total  commitment  and  immense  intellectual  capac- 
ity. At  the  same  time  he  was  amused,  even  tickled,  by  the 
decorative  superfluities  that  often  went  along  with  "being 
impressive."  The  skeptical  Shtetl  Jew  peered,  grinning, 
over  the  shoulder  of  the  impressive  statesman,  and  both 
were  genuine. 

I  pick  at  random,  from  memory,  from  notes,  from  earlier 
accounts,  illustrative  incidents  and  scenes  of  which  I  was 
the  witness,  I  have  described  in  more  detail  elsewhere  his 
appearance  in  Jerusalem  before  the  UNSCOP  (United 
Nations  Special  Committee  on  Palestine)  in  the  summer 
of  1947,  when  I  was  working  with  him  on  his  memoirs. 



The  session  was  held  in  the  YMCA  building,  and  the  trip 
to  Jerusalem  was  a  strain  on  him.  He  was  no  longer  the 
magnificent  figure  I  had  known  in  the  early  days;  he  was 
to  outward  appearance  only  a  sick,  shuffling  old  man  whose 
sight  was  failing  him.  He  had  to  be  escorted  carefully  on 
to  the  platform,  and  we  who  watched  from  the  auditorium 
were  filled  with  apprehension,  for  his  voice  was  so  low 
that  it  barely  carried  to  the  committee  members  before 
him.  We  could  not  hear  what  he  was  saying,  and  we  knew 
that  some  of  the  members — particularly  the  Indian — were 
hostile;  thus  we  were  horrified  when  we  saw  him  put  aside 
the  prepared  statement  (it  had  been  printed  for  him  in 
half -inch  type).  In  a  few  moments  we  were  at  ease,  for  it 
was  obvious  even  at  a  distance  that  he  had  established  his 
old  ascendancy.  The  faces  of  the  most  hostile  smoothed 
out,  their  questions  were  respectful,  almost  deferential; 
they  knew  themselves  to  be  in  the  presence  of  greatness. 

That  evening  (July  8,  1947)  a  small  group  of  us  accom- 
panied the  Weizmanns  to  a  performance  of  the  Israel  (then 
the  Palestine)  Philharmonic  Orchestra  in  Rehovoth,  and 
late  that  night  I  made  the  following  notes: 

It's  like  accompanying  royalty  to  a  command  per- 
formance. The  cars  sweep  up  to  the  door  after  every- 
one has  entered  and  been  seated.  The  concert  is  held 
up.  We  come  in  from  the  side,  and  before  our  coming 
we  sense  a  stirring  in  the  audience,  which  rises  as  we 
enter.  We  advance  slowly  to  our  places  in  the  front 
row;  the  orchestra  also  rises  and  plays  the  Hatikvah 
(the  national  anthem).  All  that,  and  the  military 
guard  at  the  gate  of  the  Weizmann  house  (with  its 
grounds  and  gardens  and  winding  drive),  and  the  mili- 
tary guard  at  the  concert,  and  Weizmann's  personal 
bodyguard,  heighten  the  effect.  I  feel  a  bit  silly  in 



this  galere.  Applause  as  we  enter,  the  heartier  because 
of  W.'s  performance  before  UNSCOP. 

Weizmann  feels  and  believes  himself  to  be  demo- 
cratic. So  he  is — in  the  way  a  benevolent  "good"  king 
is:  laboring  for  his  people,  making  no  distinction  be- 
tween high  and  low,  thinking  of  the  poor,  sharing 
their  problems,  planning  for  the  amelioration  of  their 
condition,  opposing  the  rapacity  of  the  rich,  the  ex- 
ploitation of  the  masses  by  demagogues  or  men  of 
wealth,  supporting  the  labor  movement,  feeling  a 
deep  and  organic  kinship  with  the  kibbutzim,  keep- 
ing an  eye  on  all  elements  of  growth  in  the  people, 
concerned  for  spiritual  values,  fighting  the  deteriora- 
tion of  the  Jewish  spirit,  loathing  terrorism  more  for 
its  effect  on  the  Jewish  character  than  for  the  deaths 
it  brings,  feeling  himself  part  of  every  creative  effort 
(university,  music,  drama — and  of  course  science  and 
the  Weizmann  Institute  now  in  the  making).  In  short, 
the  touch  of  the  "ideal"  king  comes  from  this  univer- 
sality in  relation  to  all  that  is  part  of  Jewish  life.  But 
there  is  the  "kingly"  about  him,  suggestive  of  a  court. 
Such  a  man  must  be  wealthy,  and  live  accordingly, 
with  taste.  W.'s  house  is  distinguished;  we  call  it  "The 
White  House"  (also  because  of  its  color):  flowers, 
paintings,  books,  cultivated  talk,  all  sorts  of  people — 
labor  leaders,  British  government  officials,  dignitaries 
of  all  countries,  discreet  and  devoted  servants,  haul 
ton  (much  is  the  work  of  Mrs.  W.). 

At  the  same  time,  heimishness  when  the  pressure 
is  off;  we  are  all  on  the  simplest  terms  with  him. 

Much  that  is  childish  (?)  in  W.  Eats  up  praise  and 
must  have  it  continuously.  Makes  him  feel  good  and 
enables  him  to  work  better.  All  the  same,  isn't  bam- 
boozled by  it.  Knows  when  what  he's  done  is  good, 



and  when  it  isn't;  not  the  fool  of  flatterers.  Doesn't 
relish  praise — even  merited — from  people  who  don't 
like  him.  When  he  has  done  well  at  a  public  appear- 
ance, will  sit  and  purr,  and  wants  to  be  purred  at.  It 
can  grow  tiresome;  but  we  go  along,  we  realize  he's 
just  recharging. 

Impressive  consistency  and  persistency  in  his  life's 
activity.  Quite  unable  to  be  dishonest  toward  the 
fundamental,  but  can  be  wary,  evasive,  crafty,  though 
in  reality  not  a  first-rate  politician.  Enjoys  comfort, 
order,  good  cooking  (not  so  much  now!),  tapestry, 
garden  and  trees,  which  he  delights  in  showing  off. 

Considers  himself  so  much  the  Jew  of  this  genera- 
tion that  his  ejection  from  the  Zionist  Presidency  in 
1931  and  again  now,  1947,  made  him  aghast.  Who 
dares  pretend  to  his  place?  And  indeed  all  the  others 
are  small  beside  him  (which  is  perhaps  the  best  rea- 
son— and  the  one  they  necessarily  can't  have  the  sense 
and  courage  to  give — for  changing.  We  can't  have 
political  life  thus  dominated  by  one  individual). 


If  Weizmann's  oustanding  quality  was  his  sense  of  form, 
his  outstanding  spiritual  characteristic  was  his  identifica- 
tion with  the  folk;  he  confirmed  in  me  the  link  between 
me  and  my  people;  I  do  not  mean  here  the  Jewish  people 
in  the  abstract,  but  the  group  I  have  described,  the  group 
which  gave  me  life.  Because  of  him  I  became  clear  as  to 
its  meaning  beyond  the  framework  of  a  particular  time 
and  place;  for  he  was  representative  of  the  Jewish  people 
as  a  historic  whole,  continuous  in  many  displacements 
through  some  thousands  of  years. 

He  loved  the  masses  in  Abraham  Lincoln's  way;  he  loved 



the  shoemaker,  the  carpenter,  the  shopkeeper,  the  peddler, 
while  hating  from  the  depths  of  his  soul  the  formlessness 
of  their  lives.  Pomp  and  circumstance  as  Narrishkeit,  fool- 
ishness, was  one  thing;  form  as  the  craftsmanship  of  life, 
in  science,  politics,  social  relations,  physical  surroundings, 
morals,  aesthetics,  manners — that  was  something  else.  It 
was  what  the  Jewish  people  had  to  acquire,  and  Weizmann 
was  its  teacher  in  personal  and  public  life.  Theodore 
Herzl,  the  founder  of  modern  Zionism,  had  understood 
that,  too,  but  there  was  a  profound  difference  between 
Herzl  and  Weizmann  which  is  illustrated  by  a  Chassidic 
saying:  "To  help  a  man  you  must  get  down  to  where  he 
is."  Herzl  was  the  avatar  type,  but  the  task  called  for  a 
Shtetl  man,  flesh  of  its  flesh,  bone  of  its  bone,  a  Shtetl  man 
who  had  made  the  transformation  in  himself — it  needed 
such  a  man  to  initiate  the  transformation,  still  so  incom- 
plete, in  the  people.  He  had  to  draw  from  the  Shtetl  the 
po^ver  to  overcome,  against  the  inertia  of  centuries,  the 
Shtetl's  ingrained  disdain  of  order  and  system,  which  it  had 
come  to  regard  as  an  essential  ingredient  of  Jewishness.  To 
the  Shtetl  man  form  was  a  goyish  thing;  it  had  to  do  with 
uniforms,  governments,  olam  ha-zeh  (this-worldliness).  But 
olam  ha-zeh  was  the  very  point.  Our  exclusion  from  the 
national  essence  of  olam  ha-zeh,  namely,  a  homeland  of 
our  own,  had  warped  the  Jewish  outlook,  and  the  straight- 
ening out  of  this  warp  in  the  Jewish  people  as  a  whole 
was  for  Weizmann  an  integral  part  of  the  reconstruction  of 
the  homeland. 

Weizmann  was  a  great  teacher  as  well  as  a  great  leader. 
He  was  particularly  concerned  with  the  unhealthiness  of 
the  Jewish  attitude  toward  the  non-Jewish  world.  He  was 
himself  completely  at  ease  among  non-Jews,  he  felt  no  dis- 
comfort and  occasioned  none.  He  did  not — as  consciously 
assimilating  Jews  often  do — put  his  hosts  under  a  strain 



practicing  and  tacitly  requesting  evasion  o£  Jewish  sub- 
jects. One  of  his  favorite  phrases  was:  "C'est  a  prendre  ou 
a  laisser,  take  it  or  leave  it."  He  attributed  the  lack  of 
natural  self-confidence,  which  expressed  itself  in  overcon- 
fidence  and  submissiveness,  to  the  Jewish  sense  of  abnor- 
mality rising  from  the  lack  of  a  homeland. 

When  I  served  as  his  secretary  I  used  to  accompany  him 
to  his  mass  meetings  and  take  notes  of  his  speeches  (he 
always  spoke  extemporaneously).  Here  are  some  typical 

"You  will  always  be  treated  as  a  guest  if  you  too  can 
play  the  host.  The  only  man  who  is  invited  to  dinner  is 
the  one  who  can  have  his  dinner  at  home  if  he  likes.  .  .  ." 

"Among  the  anti-Semites  none  is  more  interesting  than 
the  tender-hearted  variety.  Their  anti-Semitism  is  always 
based  on  a  compliment.  They  tell  us:  'You  are  the  salt  of 
the  earth,'  and  there  are  Jews  who  feel  themselves  extra- 
ordinarily flattered  .  .  .  Yet  I  do  not  consider  it  a  compli- 
ment to  be  called  'the  salt  of  the  earth.'  The  salt  is  used 
for  someone  else's  food,  it  dissolves  in  that  food.  And  salt 
is  good  only  in  small  quantities.  If  there  is  too  much  salt 
in  the  food,  you  throw  out  the  food  and  the  salt  with 
it.  .  .  ." 

"We  are  reproached  by  the  whole  world.  We  are  told 
that  we  are  dealers  in  old  clothes,  junk.  We  are  perhaps 
the  sons  of  dealers  in  old  clothes,  but  we  are  the  grandsons 
of  prophets.  Think  of  the  grandsons,  and  not  of  the  sons." 

It  was  good  to  see — literally  see — an  audience  catch  at 
these  points;  there  would  be  an  appreciative  turning  and 
nodding  of  heads.  The  listeners  knew  that  he  had  over- 
come these  psychological  handicaps  of  the  Jews;  they  de- 
lighted in  the  obvious  fact  that  when  he  ridiculed  the 
assimilated  Jewish  notables,  he  could  not  be  suspected  of 
of  envying  their  status  among  non-Jews;  his  was  indispu- 



tably  higher.  He  could  laugh  at  the  Jewish  merchants, 
writers,  and  financiers  who  kept  repeating:  "We  have 
risen  above  the  ghetto  thing  called  Jewishness,  We  are 

I  too  benefited  greatly  from  his  talks  and  from  his  gen- 
eral attitude.  A  fast-moving  world  has  forgotten  how  the 
idea  of  a  Jewish  state  was,  not  too  long  ago  as  history  is 
reckoned,  regarded  as  a  poky,  hole-in-wall  oddity,  classed 
with  Rosicrucianism  and  the  lost  ten  tribes.  I  am,  in  fact, 
not  completely  accustomed  to  the  new  situation;  I  still 
expect  to  hear:  "You  believe  in  the  possibility  of  a  Jewish 
state?  How  very  interesting,  you  must  tell  me  about  it," 
meaning:  "Oh  Lord,  how  did  I  get  into  this?"  How  easily 
"What  on  earth  is  he  talking  about?"  has  become  "But 
naturally."  So  forgetting,  the  world  cannot  appreciate 
what  a  long  and  stony  road  Weizmann  had  to  tread  from 
his  dreams  in  Motol  to  the  State  of  Israel.  He  called  it  his 
forty  years  in  the  wilderness,  but  it  was  longer. 

The  stoniness  of  that  road  is  known  only  to  those  who 
accompanied  Weizmann  along  part  of  it.  There  were  large 
segments  of  the  Jewish  people  in  ideological  opposition 
to  the  Zionist  program;  assimilated  or  assimilating  Jews 
of  ther  bourgeoisie  and  of  the  left;  non-assimilating  Jews 
who  wanted  to  see  Jewishness  rooted  in  the  Diaspora  with- 
out a  homeland  in  Palestine,  and  these  might  be  extremists 
in  religion  (Orthodox  and  Reform)  or  secularist  nation- 
alists; other  non-assimilating  Jews  wanted  a  Jewish  home- 
land but  at  all  costs  anywhere  but  in  Palestine.  There  were 
segments  which  dreaded  any  kind  of  publicity  about  the 
Jewish  people,  and  there  were  segments  which  were  indif- 
ferent. In  that  large  segment  which  listened  sympathet- 



ically  to  Weizmann  there  was,  predominantly,  the  inertia 
I  have  described  in  earlier  chapters,  and  it  comprised  the 
lower  economic  strata — transplanted  Shtetl-]ews  and  their 
offspring.  They  had,  on  the  whole,  neither  the  will  nor 
the  means  to  be  effective;  a  generation  had  to  pass  before 
that  was  changed. 

Among  these,  Weizmann  did  one  part  of  his  labors,  a 
part  the  more  difficult  because  while  he  taught  he  had  to 
raise  funds;  he  had  to  be  master-teacher  and  master-mendi- 
cant simultaneously,  a  double  role  at  once  spiritually  re- 
warding and  humanly  humiliating.  Sometimes  there  were 
well-to-do  prospects  among  the  sympathetic,  and  they  had 
to  be  nursed  and  catered  to.  There  were  receptions  in 
private  homes,  to  which  I  went  along  with  Weizmann,  and 
some  of  those  evenings  still  make  me  shudder.  Amid  vulgar 
and  ostentatious  surroundings,  this  man  of  exquisite  taste 
and  subtle  intellect  endured  stupidly  obstructive  questions 
and  coarse  admonitions  in  the  style  of  the  Shtetl  nogid 
(wealthy  man),  in  the  hope,  frequently  deceived,  of  obtain- 
ing a  few  thousand  dollars  for  the  pioneers  in  Palestine. 
He  would  come  away  with  a  sick  look,  saying:  "You  have 
to  bow  to  every  idol  on  the  road  to  Palestine." 

His  patience  was  inhuman.  He  had  to  inspire,  cajole, 
scold,  and  teach.  The  Zionist  position  was  paradoxical.  To 
prove  to  the  world  that  they  were  capable  of  building  a 
homeland  (for  few  believed  they  were)  the  Jews  first  had 
to  have  an  opportunity  to  build;  but  to  be  given  such  an 
opportunity  they  first  had  to  prove  that  they  were  capable 
of  building.  It  was  the  classical  problem  of  the  beginner 
and  "job-open — only-the-experienced-wanted."  A  vicious 
circle  of  this  kind  can  never  be  broken;  it  has  to  be  eroded; 
and  it  calls  for  undiscourageable  self-confidence  on  the 
part  of  the  applicant.  But  in  the  Zionist  case  there  was 
little  self-confidence  among  Jews  at  large;  the  masses  didn't 



really  believe  in  the  capacity  of  the  Jewish  people  to  build 
a  homeland. 

All  this  Weizmann  understood,  and  he  accepted  the 
consequences.  But  there  were  Zionist  leaders  who  thought 
otherwise.  They  denounced  his  gradualism  as  timidity 
and  lack  of  vision.  As  far  back  as  forty  years  ago  their  cry 
was:  "A  Jewish  state  nowV — which  in  effect  meant  a 
Jewish  state  with  practically  no  Jews  in  it.  Weizmann's 
reply,  obstinately  repeated  a  thousand  times,  was:  "A 
Jewish  state  cannot  be  created  by  decree,  but  by  the  forces 
of  a  people  in  the  course  of  generations.  Even  if  all  the 
governments  in  the  world  gave  us  a  country,  it  would  only 
be  a  gift  of  words;  but  if  the  Jewish  people  will  go  and 
build  Palestine,  the  Jewish  state  will  become  a  reality." 

Among  his  opponents  in  the  Zionist  movement  were 
men  of  distinction.  Max  Nordau,  the  author  of  Degenera- 
tion and  The  Conventional  Lies  of  Civilization  (all 
but  forgotten  now,  they  made  a  great  stir  in  their  day), 
demanded,  soon  after  the  end  of  the  First  World  War,  that 
half  a  million  Jews  be  transported  immediately  into 
Palestine — sink  or  swim;  there  would  be  enough  survivors 
to  ensure  success.  Vladimir  Jabotinsky,  breaking  with 
Weizmann,  created  the  Revisionist  Movement — so  named 
because  he  conceived  it  to  be  a  return  to  the  principles  of 
Theodore  Herzl.  Herzl,  too,  had  dreamed  of  a  dramatically 
sudden  creatio  ex  nihilo — an  international  charter  to  the 
Jews,  and  rapid  immigration  under  international  law. 
There  was  opposition  of  quite  another  kind,  headed  in 
America  by  Justice  Louis  D.  Brandeis,  who  believed  that 
the  time  for  Zionist  teaching  and  propaganda  was  past,  and 
the  work  was  straightforward,  a  businesslike  affair.  Thus, 
the  movement  split  twice — in  America,  with  Brandeis 
leading  his  dissident  group  (he  did  this  through  deputies 
after  he  was  appointed  to  the  Supreme  Court),  and  in  the 


world   Zionist    movement    with    Jabotinsky   leading    his 

Through  all  this,  Weizmann  had  to  negotiate  with 
statesmen  and  politicians  as  the  leader  of  the  Zionist  move- 
ment. He  did  it  by  the  force  of  his  personality  more  than 
by  the  solidity  of  his  immediate  backing.  We  read  today 
of  Israel's  representatives  being  received  by  this  or  that 
president  or  foreign  minister,  and  accept  it  as  natural, 
which  of  course  it  is.  But  there  was  no  of  course  about  it 
in  Weizmann's  case;  without  a  state's  bargaining  power,  or 
at  least  its  acknowledged  right  to  be  heard,  he  had  to  rely, 
for  his  introduction,  on  his  official  status,  which  was  con- 
stantly challenged.  His  personality  had  to  do  the  rest.  Nor 
was  it  simply  his  charm,  adroitness,  and  sincerity  that  won 
him  a  respectful  hearing;  it  was  the  weight  he  carried  as 
the  concentration  of  Jewish  history.  That  was  his  effective 


Working  with  him  on  his  memoirs  in  the  summer  of 
1947  was  like  reliving  his  life  with  him.  He  was  in  poor 
physical  condition,  but  his  mind  was  as  vigorous  and  sup- 
ple as  ever,  and  it  was  amazing  to  hear  him  pour  forth  his 
recollections  and  reflections  for  an  hour  or  an  hour  and  a 
half  at  a  time,  in  ordered  paragraphs,  with  witty  and  pun- 
gent interpolations.  I  would  take  it  all  down  verbatim  on 
the  typewriter,  then  we  would  go  over  it,  pruning  and 
mending,  before  I  carried  the  material  away  for  final 
polishing  and  retyping.  When  we  came  to  some  particu- 
larly murderous  sideswipe  at  someone,  I  would  ask:  "You 
don't  really  want  that  to  stay.  Dr.  Weizmann,  or  do  you?" 
His  face  would  light  up.  "No,  Maur-r-rice,  I  think  we  can 
do  a  little  p-r-runing."  Then  he  might  add,  in  Yiddish: 



"He  was,  to  be  sure,  a  mamzer,  but  that  wasn't  his  fault." 
"Mamzer,"  bastard,  is  figurative  in  Yiddish  too,  but  it  has 
a  wider  range  than  in  English;  it  may  imply  grudging 
admiration  of  a  clever  rascal  or  semi-rascal,  as  well  as  detes- 
tation of  a  low,  mean  character.  Weizmann  would  use  it 
in  either  sense,  or  in  an  intermediary  one,  and  the  key  to 
his  feeling  was  the  context  and  his  voice.  He  would  of 
course  have  softened  or  deleted  these  passages  without  my 
suggestion,  but  he  liked  to  hear  me  pick  them  out.  He 
had  a  great  sense  of  public  dignity  and  of  the  responsibility 
of  his  position;  in  private  he  allowed  himself  outbursts  of 
petulance,  and  some  of  his  remarks  were  cruel,  and  occa- 
sionally unjust. 

He  had  suffered  much  from  the  enforced  propinquity 
of  men  he  disliked  or  despised  but  who  were  useful  to  the 
movement.  He  took  it  out  on  them  in  the  first  draft,  but 
like  a  man  writing  an  abusive  letter  which  he  knows  he 
is  not  going  to  mail.  Where  he  writes  positively  and  affec- 
tionately of  people,  as  he  often  does,  he  is  genuine.  There 
were  many  companionships  and  friendships  which  were  a 
deep  source  of  joy  to  him. 

He  indulged  in  another  kind  of  private  savagery  in  the 
first  draft,  directed  at  political  opponents  with  unchal- 
lengeably  honest  motives.  He  would  pour  out  his  old  re- 
sentments; the  heat  of  long-since  fought-out  battles  would 
return  to  his  blood,  and  he  would  remember  his  frustra- 
tions. Then,  the  emotion  having  subsided,  he  would  wink, 
adding:  "He  was — or  is — a  decent  fellow,  you  know."  His 
most  derogatory  noun  for  a  man  was  monosyllabic,  Yid- 
dish, and  obscene.  His  English,  which  he  had  learned  in 
his  thirties,  was  excellent,  calling  for  few  stylistic  correc- 
tions. Most  of  the  work  lay  in  the  rearrangement  of  the 
material.  None  of  the  merits  of  Trial  and  Error  can  be 
credited  to  me,  and  I  feel  free  to  say  it  is  a  remarkable 


work;  but  what  a  pity  that  no  copy  of  the  first  draft  exists. 

When  I  think  back  to  the  circumstances  under  which  he 
produced  the  greater  part  of  the  book,  I  marvel  again  at 
his  will  power,  his  reserves  of  energy,  his  flexibility,  and 
his  capacity  to  switch  his  concentrated  attention  from  one 
task  to  another.  He  was,  at  the  time,  preparing  the  Jewish 
case  for  presentation  to  the  UNSCOP — not  merely  his  own 
address,  but  the  general  policy.  He  was  also  absorbed  in 
the  development  of  the  Weizmann  Institute  of  Science, 
which  had  begun  three  years  earlier.  There  was  a  constant 
coming  and  going  of  men  and  delegations  at  the  house. 
And  if  this  were  not  enough  for  an  ailing  man,  there  was 
the  terror  which  was  being  conducted  against  the  British 
by  a  small,  desperate  group  of  men  who  held  themselves 
accountable  to  no  one  but  themselves,  and  a  campaign  of 
insane  vilification  against  his  person  and  leadership.  Scur- 
rilous leaflets  accusing  him  of  having  sold  out  to  the  Brit- 
ish, for  money  or  honors,  were  circulated  throughout  the 
country;  walls  were  daubed  with  denunciations  of  "Weiz- 
mann-Petain";  and  hardest  for  him  to  bear,  there  was  the 
terror  itself,  blind,  ferocious,  and  demoralizing. 

Weizmann  writes  how  he  saw  "here  and  there  a  relaxa- 
tion of  the  old,  traditional  Zionist  purity  of  ethics,  a  touch 
of  militarism,  and  a  weakness  for  its  trappings;  here  and 
there  something  worse — the  tragic,  un-Jewish  resort  to 
terrorism,  a  perversion  of  the  purely  defensive  function  of 
Haganah  [the  national  army,  clandestine  till  1948];  and 
worst  of  all,  in  certain  circles,  a  readiness  to  compound 
with  the  evil,  to  condemn  and  not  to  condemn  it,  to  treat 
it  not  as  the  thing  it  was,  namely,  an  unmitigated  curse  lo 
the  National  Home,  but  a  phenomenon  which  might  have 
its  advantages." 

The  terrorists  were  a  mixed  lot:  idealists  whose  minds 
had  become  unhinged  by  the  multimillion  extermination 



of  Jews  in  Europe  and  the  calculating,  callous  attitude  of 
the  British  rulers  of  Palestine;  adventurers  with  killer 
instincts  in  search  of  justifiable  employment;  morally 
disoriented  youngsters.  Their  backers,  in  Palestine  and 
America,  were  an  equally  mixed  assortment;  the  most 
curious  element  among  them  consisted  of  Jews  who  had 
never  before  manifested  the  slightest  interest  in  Jewish 
affairs  and  who,  when  the  homeland  had  been  established, 
reverted  to  their  former  indifference.  Here  too  there  was 
a  wide  range  of  characters,  from  the  genuinely  intellectual 
type  like  Arthur  Koestler  to  the  squalidly  picaresque 
Hollywood  type  like  Ben  Hecht.  They  were  fired  suddenly 
by  the  idea  of  "the  fighting  Jew";  the  thinking  Jew,  the 
building  Jew,  the  Jew  who  had  endured  and  come  through 
with  unscarred  psyche  was  and  is  meaningless  to  them. 
They  hated  Weizmann,  and  their  campaign  against  him 
has  not  come  to  an  end  with  his  death.  The  supporters  of 
the  terror,  to  whom  history  assigns  no  role  in  the  creation 
of  the  Jewish  state,  still  raise  their  voices  from  time  to 
time,  not  to  further  the  work  that  remains  to  be  done, 
but — "noteless  blots  on  a  remembered  name" — to  vent 
their  frustration  in  continued  vilification  of  the  greatest 
Jew  of  modern  times. 


I  return  from  this  digression  to  the  summer  months  of 
1947.  The  two  or  three  hours  I  spent  daily  with  Weizmann 
were  of  course  the  smallest  as  well  as  the  most  enjoyable 
part  of  my  labors.  The  collating,  the  excision  of  repeti- 
tions, the  verifying  of  dates,  and  so  on,  took  much  longer. 
Some  of  this  was  mechanical,  none  of  it  was  wholly  dull, 
for  throughout  I  was  gripped  by  the  unfolding  of  a  fas- 
cinating record  as  dictated  by  the  man  who  had  lived  it. 



What  moved  me  most  deeply  I  have  referred  to  in  one  of 
my  notes  made  at  the  time:  "Impressive  consistency  and 
persistence  in  his  life's  activity."  The  irrevocable  commit- 
ment began  in  his  childhood,  and  curious  recurrences  of 
theme  confirm  like  echoes  the  unity  of  purpose,  the 
straight  line  of  destiny. 

As  a  cheder  boy  in  Pinsk,  little  Chaim  Weizmann  wrote 
a  Hebrew  letter  to  his  rebbe,  affirming  his  faith  in  the  re- 
building of  Zion  and  prophesying  that  England  would 
play  the  major  role  in  it.  The  letter  might  have  been  writ- 
ten by  any  imaginative  youngster  who  had  grown  up  in  a 
Zionist  home  and  who  had  heard  his  grandfather  tell  and 
retell  how  Sir  Moses  Montefiore  (a  legendary  name  among 
Jews),  held  in  honor  by  the  Queen  of  England,  had  come 
to  Russia  to  try  to  alleviate  the  condition  of  Russian  Jewry, 
and  how  the  Jews  of  Vilna  had  unharnessed  the  horses  and 
dragged  the  carriage  in  tumultuous  procession  through  the 
streets  of  "the  Jerusalem  of  Lithuania."  By  itself  a  moder- 
ately interesting  childhood  incident,  the  letter  is,  in  con- 
junction with  the  man's  development  many  years  later,  an 
extraordinary  one.  For  Weizmann  tells  how,  in  1913,  hav- 
ing been  denied  at  Manchester  University  an  academic 
promotion  he  thought  himself  entitled  to,  he  almost  left 
England  to  become  a  professional  Zionist  in  Berlin.  He 

Whether,  left  to  my  own  counsel,  I  would  actually 
have  taken  this  step,  I  do  not  know.  But  it  was  my  wife 
who  put  her  foot  down.  She  disliked  Germany;  so 
for  that  matter  did  I.  I  cannot  help  thinking  she  was 
guided  by  something  more  than  personal  considera- 
tions, either  for  herself  or  me.  In  any  case,  I  shudder 
to  think  of  the  possible  results  if  I  had  yielded  to  the 
importunity  of  my  friends  (in  Berlin)  and  my  own 
momentary  impulse. 



He  tells  also  how,  as  a  boy  in  Pinsk,  he  used  to  take 
part  during  the  Purim  holiday  in  the  money-box  collec- 
tions for  Palestine: 

Purim  always  came  in  the  midst  of  the  March  thaw, 
and  hour  after  hour  I  would  go  tramping  through 
the  mud  of  Pinsk,  from  end  to  end  of  the  town.  I 
remember  that  my  mother  was  accustomed,  for  reason 
of  economy,  to  make  my  overcoats  much  too  long  for 
me,  to  allow  for  growth,  so  that  as  I  went  I  repeatedly 
stumbled  over  the  skirts  and  sometimes  fell  headlong 
into  the  icy  slush  of  the  streets.  I  worked  late  into  the 
night,  but  usually  had  the  satisfaction  of  bringing  in 
more  money  than  anyone  else.  Such  was  my  appren- 
ticeship for  the  activities  which,  on  a  rather  larger 
scale,  have  occupied  so  many  years  of  my  later  life. 

"Rather  larger  scale"  was  British  understatement,  which 
Weizmann  liked  and  employed  effectively.  The  organized 
campaigns  and  "drives"  of  the  later  Zionist  movement 
have  dwarfed  into  insignificance  the  collections  of  thirty 
or  forty  years  ago,  when  two  or  three  million  a  year  from 
American  Jewry  was  the  limit,  but  Weizmann  in  his  day 
was  the  greatest  individual  mendicant  in  Jewish  history 
and  perhaps,  considering  the  economic  strata  among  which 
he  did  his  main  work,  the  greatest  in  all  history.  I  asked 
him  once  what  difference  he  had  found  between  soliciting 
on  the  ten-kopeck  and  the  ten-thousand-dollar  levels.  He 
answered  that  you  heard  the  plea  of  poverty  more  fre- 
quently on  the  ten-thousand-dollar  level.  "It's  usually  after 
an  elaborate  dinner  for  twenty;  you  look  around  at  the 
furnishings,  the  tapestries  and  the  pictures,  and  you  feel 
like  returning  the  dinner — on  the  spot.  When  a  poor  man 
is  mean  he  makes  no  bones  about  it;  he  slams  the  door  in 
your  face,  a  swift  and  painless  operation.  I  can  remember 
certain  houses  in   Pinsk  where  I  was  regularly  refused 



with:  'I've  already  given.'  It  was  a  lie,  as  we  both  knew, 
but  it  was  a  time-  and  energy-saver.  I  liked  best  the  man 
who  answered  coolly:  'I  don't  give,  I'm  a  swine  that  way.' 
I  had  no  quarrel  with  him.  The  rich  aren't  straightfor- 
ward, they  keep  you  dangling,  they  make  a  pleasurable 
game  of  it,  they  like  to  see  you  with  your  tongue  hanging 
out.  And  when  they  do  give  they  make  you  sweat  for  it.' 
But  he  had  encountered  much  generosity  among  the  rich, 
too,  and  remembered  it  gratefully. 

His  apprenticeship  in  this  field  of  mendicancy  served 
him  well  in  another  field,  the  political.  In  a  sense  he 
begged  his  way  to  the  Jewish  state  at  the  doors  of  chancel- 
leries. There  too  he  knew  what  it  meant  to  be  kept  dan- 
gling, with  tongue  hanging  out,  but  there  too  he 
remembered  with  gratitude  acts  of  generosity  and  under- 
standing. He  was  contemptuous  of  Zionists  who  accused 
him  of  lack  of  firmness  when  there  was  nothing  to  be  firm 
with.  "They  want  me  to  go  to  Downing  Street  and  bang 
on  the  table.  I  could  get  in,  and  I  could  bang  on  the  table 
once,  and  that  would  be  the  end  of  it."  He  used  to  call 
Downing  Street  his  Via  Dolorosa. 

To  understand  the  consistency  of  his  life,  one  must 
realize  that  he  was  not  a  Zionist  by  conviction  any  more 
than  one  is  a  human  being  by  conviction.  There  was 
nothing  else  for  him  to  be.  Thus,  whatever  vicissitudes 
and  changes  he  went  through  as  a  person,  the  Zionist  idea 
worked  in  and  through  them.  As  a  child  in  Motol,  as  a 
youth  in  Pinsk,  as  a  student  in  Berlin  and  Geneva,  as  a 
chemistry  teacher  in  Manchester,  as  director  of  a  British 
Admiralty  laboratory  in  the  First  World  War,  he  was 
Weizmann  the  Zionist.  When  he  came  to  full  leadership 
in  the  Zionist  movement,  he  had  passed  through  all  the 
intermediary  stages;  the  boy,  the  youth,  the  man  had  lived 
his  essential  life  in  preparation,  at  meetings,  conferences, 



congresses,  traveling,  speaking  to  handfuls  in  tiny  halls, 
speaking  to  large  audiences,  arguing  with  individuals. 

He  had  greatness  of  personality  as  seen  from  within,  as 
well  as  consistency  of  purpose.  A  narrow  personality  united 
with  obsessional  persistence  and  unflagging  energy  can 
achieve  much.  I  have  known  such  men;  by  their  persistence 
and  energy  they  become  multiple  until  they  are  like  a  large 
island  of  coral-reef  insects;  they  perform  wonders  by  the 
sheer  multiplicity  of  their  small,  relentless  selves.  Nor 
do  I  mean  by  "greatness  of  personality  as  seen  from 
within"  the  power  to  fascinate,  the  imposing  or  stage-filling 
personality,  which  was  developed  to  such  a  high  degree 
in  Weizmann,  so  that  people  were  afraid  to  meet  him  lest 
they  be  swept  off  their  feet.  Lord  Balfour,  a  friend  and 
admirer  of  Weizmann's,  hearing  of  an  anti-Zionist  who 
refused  to  meet  Weizmann  for  that  reason,  called  the  man 
a  coward.  I  would  not  wholly  agree.  The  power  to  fas- 
cinate is  sometimes  nothing  more  than  itself,  like  the 
technical  ability  to  hypnotize  which  I  have  sometimes  seen 
displayed  by  trivial  and  unworthy  men,  night-club  per- 
formers for  instance.  Weizmann  had  obsessional  persist- 
ence as  well  as  the  power  to  charm,  almost  to  hypnotize, 
and  these  qualities  helped  to  place  him  on  the  stage  of 
world  affairs.  But  I  can  think  of  him  as  essentially  the 
same  man  without  these  qualities  and  without  his  external 


m  202  m 



The  Scientist 



N  THE  WALL  o£  the  marble-pavcd  plaza  that  leads  to 
Weizmann's  tomb,  these  words  o£  his  are  inscribed: 

I  feel  sure  that  science  will  bring  to  this  land  both 
peace  and  a  renewal  of  its  youth,  creating  here  the 
springs  of  a  new  spiritual  life.  And  here  I  speak  of 
science  for  its  own  sake  and  applied  science. 

I  have  paused  many  times  before  this  inscription,  trying 
to  fit  it  into  the  life  of  the  man.  Had  he  not  been  a 
scientist,  I  would  not  look  for  deeper  meaning;  I  would 
pass  over  it  as  the  sort  of  thing  one  says  nowadays.  But 
he  was  a  scientist,  and  this  was  his  scientific  credo. 

The  spiritual  value  of  science  seems  to  have  meant 
to  him  its  intellectual  and  moral  discipline,  the  main- 
tenance of  standards,  the  conquest  of  the  Shtetl  handicaps. 
It  meant  integrity,  modesty,  and  form.  About  the  found- 
ing of  the  Daniel  Sieff  Research  in  Rehovoth — the  fore- 
runner of  the  Wezmann  Institute — he  wrote: 

The  whole  experiment  of  setting  up  a  research 
institute  in  a  country  as  scientifically  backward  as 
Palestine  is  beset  with  pitfalls.  There  is,  first,  the 
risk  of  falling  into  the  somewhat  neglectful  habits 


of  Oriential  countries;  a  second  danger  is  that  of 
losing  a  sense  of  proportion  because  of  the  lack  of 
standards  of  comparision.  One  is  always  the  best 
chemist  in  Egypt  or  in  Palestine  when  there  are  no 
others.  Also,  if  one  turns  out  a  piece  of  work  which 
in  England  or  America  would  be  considered  modest 
enough,  one  is  apt  to  overvalue  it  simply  because 
it  has  been  turned  out  in  difficult  circumstances.  The 
standard  and  quality  of  the  work  must  be  watched 
over  most  critically  and  carefully.  Many  of  the 
publications  issued  by  scientific  institutions  in  back- 
ward countries  are  very  much  below  the  level  re- 
quired elsewhere,  but  the  contributors  to  these 
publications  are  very  proud  of  them  because  the 
local  level  is  not  high.  I  made  up  my  mind  that  this 
sort  of  atmosphere  should  not  prevail  at  the  Sieff 
Institute,  and  that  it  should  live  up  to  the  highest 

There  were  several  ways  of  combatting  the  dangers 
I  have  indicated.  First  there  was  the  proper  selection 
of  the  staff  and  the  infusion  into  it  of  the  right 
spirit — that  of  maintaining  the  highest  quality.  Every 
member  was  enjoined  to  take  his  time  over  his  piece 
of  work,  and  not  merely  have  publication  in  view. 

But  while  he  was  fighting  the  negative  aspect  of  a 
Shtetl  psychology,  he  still  appealed  to  the  affirmations  in 
it.  He  wrote,  on  the  subject  of  the  Shtetl  tradition: 

Our  great  men  were  always  a  product  of  the  sym- 
biosis between  the  ancient,  traditional  Talmudic 
learning  in  which  our  ancestors  were  steeped  in  the 
Polish  or  Rumanian  ghettos  or  even  in  Spain,  and  the 
modem  western  universities  with  which  their  children 
came  in  contact.  There  is  often  as  not  a  long  list  of 



Talmudic  scholars  and  Rabbis  in  the  pedigrees  of 
modern  scientists.  In  many  cases  they  themselves 
came  from  Talmudic  schools,  breaking  away  in  their 
twenties  and  struggling  through  to  Paris  or  Zurich 
or  Princeton.  It  is  this  extraordinary  phenomenon — 
a  great  tradition  of  learning  fructified  by  modern 
methods — which  has  given  us  both  first  class  scientists 
and  competent  men  in  every  branch  of  academic 
activity,  out  of  all  relation  to  our  numbers. 

Weizmann  was  himself  a  remarkable  example  of  the 
blend  of  tradition  with  modern  science.  He  had  never 
attended  a  Yeshivah  (Talmudical  academy),  but  his 
Jewish  education  was  thorough.  He  was  not  a  religious 
Jew  in  the  formal  sense,  and  like  his  father — a  timber 
merchant  who  studied  Maimonides  in  his  leisure  hours — 
he  had  no  high  regard  for  clerics,  but  his  Jewish  drive 
cannot  properly  be  described  as  secular.  It  was  a 
kind  of  blend  which  he  did  not  trouble  to  think 

His  emphasis  on  applied  science  as  the  key  to  the 
renewal  of  the  Jewish  homeland  needs  no  explanation 
nowadays,  when  the  whole  world  is  caught  up  in  the 
scientific  revolution;  but  there  is  some  interest  in  ob- 
serving how  his  own  scientific  equipment  played  into  his 
Zionist  commitment.  He  was  a  chemistry  teacher  at  Man- 
chester University  when  he  met  Balfour  in  1906  and  won 
him  to  the  Zionist  cause;  conceivably  such  a  meeting 
could  have  taken  place  anyhow;  but  it  is  doubtful  whether 
he  would  have  met  Churchill  in  1916  if  not  for  his  dis- 
covery of  a  fermentation  process  for  the  production  of 
acetone,  a  chemical  badly  needed  for  the  conduct  of  the 
war.  A  popular  legend  has  it  that  the  British  government 
"awarded"  Palestine  to  the  Jews  in  return  for  Weizmann's 
war  services;  it  is  a  beautiful  instance  of  the  myth  at  work 



simplifying  and  distorting  a  complicated  truth.  We  meet 
it  again  in  1942,  when  John  G.  Winant,  the  American 
ambassador  to  Great  Britain,  invited  him  on  behalf  of 
President  Roosevelt  to  come  to  the  United  States  and 
work  there  on  the  problem  of  synthetic  rubber.  "Mr. 
Winant  advised  me  earnestly,"  writes  Weizmann,  "to 
devote  myself  as  completely  as  possible  to  chemistry;  he 
believed  that  I  would  thus  serve  best  the  Allied  Powers 
and  the  Zionist  cause.  I  promised  Mr.  Winant  to  follow 
his  advice  to  the  best  of  my  ability.  Actually  I  divided 
my  time  almost  equally  between  science  and  Zionism." 
Weizmann  was  too  worldly  wise  to  rely  on  the  prospect 
held  out  by  Winant,  however  sincere  the  latter  may  have 
been.  He  knew  that  in  political  life  a  reward  must  be 
earned  twice,  first  deserving  it,  then  collecting  it,  and 
the  second  half  usually  calls  for  more  exertion.  Thus 
Weizmann  looked  on  his  services  to  the  British  and 
American  governments  as  opportunities  to  urge  the  claims 
of  Zionism  in  influential  quarters,  and  had  he  not  pursued 
these  opportunities  as  assiduously  and  skillfully  as  his 
scientific  work  there  would  have  been  no  "reward."  An 
obituary  notice  on  Weizmann  in  an  American  weekly 
said:  "His  vibrant,  eloquent  voice,  lowered  for  emphasis, 
cutting  deftly  through  details  to  the  essentials,  was  one 
of  the  greatest  one-man  propaganda  instruments  in 
history."  He  got  some  of  his  most  important  audiences 
through  his  scientific  usefulness;  what  he  achieved  through 
them  had  nothing  to  do  with  science.  This  the  myth  does 
not  understand. 

Another  instance  of  the  indirect  but  creative  connection 
between  science  and  Zionism  came  vividly  to  my  attention 
eight  years  after  Weizmann's  death.  It  was  here,  in  the 
Weizmann  Institute  in  Rehovoth,  that  the  International 
Conference  on  Science  in  the  Advancement  of  New  States 



was  held  in  the  summer  of  i960.  The  ceremonial  opening 
in  the  plaza,  under  the  open  sky,  was  immensely  impres- 
sive, with  its  delegates  from  Ghana  and  Ethiopia,  from 
Cameroon,  Kenya,  Liberia,  Mali,  Nigeria,  Iran,  Nepal — 
thirty-odd  new  Afro-Asian  states  and  a  few  old  ones 
in  process  of  renewal — its  Israeli  and  foreign  scientists, 
its  thousands  of  visitors.  There  was  festivity  in  the  bright 
air.  The  Israelis  were  proud,  and  a  little  awed;  born  for 
the  most  part  in  other  lands  before  there  was  an  Israel, 
they  had  been  accustomed  in  a  millennial  tradition  to 
the  status  of  guests  of  uncertain  standing;  now  they  were 
playing  host  to  a  newborn  world,  and  not  merely  as 
a  gesture,  but  for  a  highly  practical  purpose  in  line  with 
a  universal  need.  The  practical  side  had  two  facets. 
Israeli  specialists  had  already  been  at  work  in  the  Afro- 
Asian  countries,  and  contingents  from  these  had  already 
been  receiving  instruction  in  Israel's  schools,  co-operatives, 
and  kibbutzim.  There  were  valuable  political  results  for 
Israel,  honestly  come  by;  and  it  was  the  expansion  of  the 
Weizmann  tradition.  While  it  would  be  absurd  to  say  that 
a  similar  tradition  would  not  have  been  founded  without 
him — Herzl  had  already  laid  down  the  principle  that 
without  science  a  state  cannot  be  created  in  modern  times 
— Weizmann's  example  and  name  added  to  it  the  fruitful 
element  of  an  eponym. 

There  were  two  weeks  of  lectures,  seminars,  papers, 
discussions,  proposals,  resolutions — to  what  degree  im- 
mediately useful  it  is  hard  to  tell.  Scientific  conferences, 
I  am  told,  are  usually  showpieces  and  marking-points,  their 
value  lies  in  personal  contacts,  also  in  what  comes  before 
and  after.  With  luck  a  conference  becomes  memorable 
by  virtue  of  some  phrases,  and  one  such  phrase,  in  this 
instance,  made  a  lasting  impression  on  me,  and  not  at 
all  in  a  "scientific"  way.  A  very  commonplace  phrase  it 



was,  too,  a  cliche  thrown  out,  I  imagine,  without  awareness 
of  its  peculiar  relevance  to  the  time,  place,  and  occasion. 
The  delegate  from  Belgian  Congo,  called  on  for  a  few 
words,  spoke  in  French,  thanked  Israel  for  having  been 
the  first  country  to  send  a  group  of  doctors  and  nurses 
to  his  country,  and  closed  with:  "Vive  la  Repuhlique  d' 
Israel,  vive  I'  Afrique  libre."  I  started;  I  could  imagine 
the  spirit  of  Weizmann  called  up  from  the  nearby  tomb, 
like  Saul's  by  the  witch  of  Endor,  but  not  reluctantly, 
not  to  reproach  and  foretell  disaster,  smiling,  rather,  to 
hear  his  country's  name  linked  with  the  latest  of  human- 
ity's efforts  to  break  the  bonds  of  the  past.  The  sons  of 
the  Shtetl  had  come  a  long  way;  through  them  the  Jewish 
people  was  re-entering  world  history  as  a  recognized  con- 
temporaneous force. 

With  all  this,  I  keep  looking  for  other  meanings  in  the 
inscription:  "Science  .  .  .  creating  here  the  springs  of 
a  new  spiritual  life."  It  has  a  special  poignancy  "here," 
where  a  spiritual  life  developed  long  before  the  begin- 
nings of  science.  Will  Israel  make  a  comparable  contri- 
bution to  the  solution  of  the  science-and-humanism, 
science-and-religion  problem?  During  the  last  few  years, 
and  particularly  during  this  long  Sabbath-summer,  I 
have  been  preparing  myself  for  the  examination  of  this 
problem  by  a  consistent  effort  to  learn  at  least  the  ele- 
mentary language  of  science;  but  it  is  a  problem  with 
which  Weizmann  himself  was  never  occupied. 

He  was  not  a  philosopher  of  science,  and  wrote  nothing 
about  its  epistemological  aspects,  like  a  Mach  or  a  Bridg- 
man.  He  was  a  scientist-humanist,  naturally,  as  it  were, 
never  troubling  himself  about  a  justification.  His  outlook 
was  spiritual-practical;  science  was  a  practical  matter  and 
also  a  discipline  in  truthfulness.  He  was  concerned  with 
truthfulness,  not  absolute  Truth.  Even  so,  he  shied  away 



from  certain  relevant  questions:  Are  the  skills  of  science 
transferrable  to  the  humanistic  field?  Are  scientists,  in 
their  non-scientific  relations,  truthful,  more  honest,  more 
"spiritual  on  the  whole  than  laymen"? 

Other,  "deeper"  questions  seemed  to  trouble  Weizmann 
even  less.  He  was  not  concerned  with  the  widespread 
popular  complaint  that  modern  science  is  making  the 
world  unintelligible  to  common  sense.  I  do  not,  for  myself, 
share  this  view:  or  rather,  it  is  my  view  that  the  world 
was  never  intelligible  to  common  sense.  The  "common- 
sensicality"  of  Newtonian  physics,  of  matter  composed  of 
discrete  particles  moving  about  in  absolute  space,  was 
a  popular  delusion.  Newton  himself  was  completely  baffled 
by  the  phenomenon  of  gravitational  "action  at  a  distance"; 
it  didn't  make  sense  to  him;  he  died  a  baffled  man.  The 
new  explanation,  the  "curvature  of  space,"  and  matter 
"naturally"  moving  along  the  shortest  available  line,  is 
called,  conceptually,  complete  nonsense.  Conceptually 
speaking,  it  is  not  greater  nonsense  than  action  at  a 
distance.  It  just  happens  to  be  new,  and  when  we  have 
got  used  to  it  (without  understanding  it,  of  course),  we 
shall  think  it  just  as  common-sensical  as  we  thought  the 
classical  physics  to  be.  (What  we  call  an  explanation  is 
usually  a  restatement  of  the  new  un-understood  in  terms 
of  the  old  un-understood.)  But  we  can  say  that  the  science 
of  the  last  half  century  has  jolted  us  again  into  an  appre- 
hension of  the  unintelligibility  of  the  physical  world  in 
terms  of  everyday  common  sense.  The  very  big  and  the 
very  little,  inter-galactic  space  and  intra-atomic  space, 
do  not  conform  to  anything  conceivable — in  the  sense 
of  picturable — by  us.  We  make  "models"  of  the  atom, 
but  they  are  no  more  like  an  atom  than  a  railroad  time- 
table is  like  a  journey.  Religion  asks  us  to  believe  what 
we   cannot  prove,   and   science   proves  what   we   cannot 



conceive.  Of  the  events  in  the  sub-atomic  world  we  may 
say  with  Goethe: 

Das   Unheschreibliche, 
Hier  ist's  getan — 

even  though  it  is  to  a  large  extent  heschreihlich  as  cor- 
responding to  calculations. 

To  Weizmann  the  world  and  life  were  intelligible  and 
manageable.  With  all  his  subtlety,  he  was  in  a  sense 
simpliste,  which  makes  him  the  more  complex.  His 
scientific  bent  and  his  spiritual  intuitions  were  in  com- 
plete harmony,  and  whether  this  was  so  in  symbiosis  or 
by  balance  was  unimportant  to  him. 


®    210    @ 



I  Founding  Fathers 



.MONG  the  men  who  stood  close  to  Weizmann  there 
were  two  whose  influence  on  me  was  second  only  to  his. 
They  were,  like  him,  products  of  the  Shtetl,  but  as  different 
from  him  as  they  were  from  each  other.  One  was  Shmarya 
Levin,  whose  memory  as  a  dazzling  orator  is  cherished  by 
a  dwindling  old-time  Yiddish-speaking  generation;  the 
other  was  Chaim  Nachman  Bialik,  whose  poetry  will  be 
read  as  long  as  Hebrew  lives. 

Shmarya  Levin  was  in  America  when  I  arrived  in  1914, 
and  whenever  he  made  a  public  appearance  I  was  in  the 
front  row.  I  followed  his  addresses  with  difficulty  at  first, 
then  with  increasing  joy  as  I  acquired  intimacy  with  the 
language  by  dint  of  reading,  of  frequent  visits  to  the 
Yiddish  theater — those  were  the  great  days  of  Maurice 
Moskowitz  and  Jacob  Adler — and  of  conversations  with 
Uncle  Berel.  My  first  translations  were  of  Levin's  articles 
in  the  now  long-defunct  Yiddish  daily.  Die  Varheit.  In 
the  Yiddish  phrase,  I  served  my  barber's  apprenticeship 
on  his  beard.  Years  later  I  translated  his  three-volume 
autobiography.  From  Levin  I  first  learned  that  Zionism 
was  something  more  than  a  nationalist-political  movement 
or  a  philanthropic  refugee  undertaking;  he  introduced  me 


to  the  philosophy  of  Achad  Ha-am,  whose  disciple  he  was, 
together  with  Weizmann,  and  to  the  Biblical,  tolkloristic, 
and  spiritual  roots  of  the  movement.  I  have  many  reasons 
for  remembering  him  with  gratitude. 

Levin  was  a  man  of  great  gifts  and  little  discipline;  he 
wasted  much  of  his  life  at  chess,  and  was  the  unfortunate 
kind  of  addict  who  plays  poorly  and  hates  to  lose.  Even  I 
used  to  win  a  game  from  him  now  and  again,  and  I  might 
have  won  oftener  if  he  had  not  had  the  habit  of  taking 
back  moves — which  he  always  did  in  a  high  state  of  in- 
dignation and  resentment,  as  if  some  invisible  and  stupid 
kibbitzer  had  forced  his  hand.  On  my  visits  to  Palestine 
in  later  years,  I  would  always  find  him  at  the  Cafe  Vienna, 
in  Jerusalem,  absorbed  in  a  game  of  chess.  At  Zionist 
Congresses  he  sometimes  had  to  be  dragged  away  from 
the  board  almost  forcibly  to  attend  to  serious  business 
in  the  plenum.  He  played  in  what  we  call  the  Yeshivah 
manner,  accompanying  his  moves  with  audible  singsong 
meditations  on  Talmudic  aphorisms.  He  confesses  in  his 
memoirs  that  two  arts,  as  he  called  them,  chess  and  smok- 
ing, played  an  altogether  too  important  part  in  his  life, 
adding  that  in  both  of  them  he  reached  his  peak  early  and 
registered  no  advance  with  the  passing  years.  I  sympathized 
with  Levin;  I  too  am  by  nature  indolent,  but  unlike 
him  have  become  reconciled  to  the  fact  that  you  can't 
beat  work  for  getting  things  done. 

In  appearance  Levin  suggested  a  stage  Mephistophe- 
les:  he  was  tall  and  lean,  with  a  long,  dark,  furrowed  face, 
brilliant  eyes,  the  right  one  with  a  strong  outward  cast,  a 
small  pointed  beard,  and  something  like  horns — a  peculiar 
growth  of  hair  standing  up  at  the  corners  of  his  temples. 
On  the  platform  he  dominated  an  audience  by  his  af>- 
pearance,  his  intensity  of  manner,  and  his  brilliant  oratory. 
His  Yiddish  was  at  once  formal  and  racy,  colorful  with 



folk  allusions  and  quotations  from  Bible,  Talmud,  and 
Midrash;  when  I  translated  him  I  had  to  go  round  many 
of  the  passages;  their  point  depended  so  much  on  intra- 
mural intimacies,  on  exegesis,  and  tradition  familiar  only 
to  cheder  and  Yeshivah  Jews.  He  made  the  Bible  alive 
by  finding  in  it  parallels  or  contrasts  with  current  affairs; 
for  him,  as  for  my  people,  the  Bible  covered  all  possible 
human  situations. 

It  was  a  common  practice  to  refer  to  the  Russian  Czar 
as  Pharaoh,  oppressor  of  the  Jews,  the  only  difference 
being  that  the  Czar  was  willing  to  let  them  go.  Like 
Pharaoh,  said  Levin,  Nicholas  II  kept  making  promises 
and  breaking  them;  he  called  a  Duma  and  dissolved  it, 
called  another  and  dissolved  it.  "He  promised  and  re- 
tracted, promised  and  retracted,"  said  Levin,  "till  the 
Red  Sea  swallowed  him  up." 

One  of  his  most  famous  parallels  went  back  to  pre- 
World  War  I  Zionist  history.  A  number  of  wealthy  Jews 
in  Germany  were  ready  to  contribute  toward  the  develop- 
ment of  a  technical  school  in  Palestine  (it  has  become  the 
famous  Haifa  Technion,  Israel's  M.I.T.)  as  a  purely 
philanthropic  enterprise  on  condition  that  the  language 
of  instruction  be  German,  not  Hebrew.  In  this  they  were 
acting  as  patriotic  Germans  supporting  Germany's  im- 
perialist Drang  nach  Osten.  Their  spokesman  was  a  Dr. 
Paul  Nathan,  head  of  the  Union  of  German  Citizens  of 
the  Jewish  faith,  an  organization  analogous  to  the  Amer- 
ican Council  for  Judaism  today.  Levin,  denouncing  him, 
made  a  great  play  on  the  David-Bathsheba  story  and  the 
denunciation  of  David  by  the  Prophet  Nathan,  He  cited 
the  parable  of  the  rich  man  with  many  flocks  and  herds 
and  the  poor  man  with  only  one  litle  ewe-lamb  "which 
he  had  brought  and  nourished  up,  and  it  grew  up  to- 
gether with  him  and  his  children;  it  did  eat  of  his  own 
meat,  and  drank  of  his  own  cup,  and  lay  in  his  bosom, 



and  was  unto  him  as  a  daughter."  "We  have  one  little 
ewe-lamb  of  a  school  in  Palestine,"  cried  Levin,  "and 
Germany  has  a  thousand  schools.  Like  the  rich  man  who 
forebore  to  take  of  his  own  flock  to  entertain  a  visitor, 
Germany  with  her  thousand  schools  wants  to  take  away 
our  one  little  school.  But  who  is  the  villain  of  the  story 
today?  Not  David,  but  the  false  prophet.  Nathan,  thou 
art  the  man!" 

Levin  had  a  biting  wit,  not  always  under  control,  and 
some  of  his  sallies  must  have  been  costly  to  the  Zionist 
movement — but  how  refreshing  they  were!  He  made  his 
first  visit  to  America  in  1907,  and  in  spite  of  his  identifi- 
cation with  Zionism  was  invited,  as  a  Jewish  celebrity,  to 
the  home  of  Jacob  Schiff,  the  anti-Zionist  philanthropist. 
The  host,  anxious  to  make  his  position  clear,  stated  it  in 
the  following  terms:  "I  want  you  all  to  know  that  I 
consist  of  three  parts:  I  am  an  American,  I  am  a  German, 
and  I  am  a  Jew."  Levin,  asked  to  address  the  assembled 
guests,  wanted  to  know  how  Mr.  Schiff  effected  the  divi- 
sion; was  it  perpendicularly  or  horizontally?  And,  if 
horizontally,  which  section  did  he  allocate  to  the  Jewish 
people?  There  were  hopes  that  Schiff  would  some  day 
become,  if  not  a  Zionist,  at  least  a  contributor  to  Pales- 
tinian charities,  and  Levin's  question  was  not  helpful. 

Levin  was  on  friendly  terms  with  Julius  Rosenwald, 
another  famous  philanthropist  who,  somewhat  less  vio- 
lently anti-Zionist  than  Schiff,  helped  Levin  in  a  publishing 
venture  in  Palestine,  as  a  gesture  toward  Jewish  culture, 
of  course,  and  not,  God  forbid,  to  promote  Zionism. 
Rosenwald  twitted  Levin:  "The  most  I'll  do  for  you  in 
a  personal  way  is  to  build  myself  a  villa  in  Chicago  and 
call  it  Tel  Aviv."  "You've  got  it  upside  down,"  said 
Levin.  "We  want  you  to  build  a  villa  in  Tel  Aviv  and  not 
call  it  Chicago." 

There  were  many  Jews  who  contributed  to  Palestine 



philanthropic  funds  while  disclaiming  any  intention  to 
promote  the  building  of  a  Jewish  homeland.  It  was  not 
their  fault,  they  argued,  that  Palestine  happened  to  have 
Jews  who  needed  help  or  offered  a  refuge  for  Jews  who 
could  not  find  a  haven  elsewhere.  If  in  effect  the  Zionist 
cause  was  thereby  promoted,  let  the  Zionists  bear  the 
blame.  Levin,  whose  humor  often  ran  to  ribaldry,  likened 
these  good-natured  people  to  a  man  who  sleeps  with  a 
woman  out  of  sheer  kindness  and  washes  his  hands  of 
any  unintended  consequences;  and,  in  less  Rabelaisian 
vein,  to  an  atheist  who  is  outraged  because  the  only  place 
available  to  the  victims  of  a  flood  happens  to  be  a 

Of  a  very  distinguished  American  rabbi  whose  activities 
were  multifarious.  Levin  said:  "He's  a  big  man;  as  big 
as  the  Woolworth  building,  and  if  you  look  closely  you'll 
see  that  he  too  is  made  up  of  nickels  and  dimes."  His 
favorite  Yiddish  word  for  a  fool  was  the  same  as  Weiz- 
mann's,  but  Levin  improved  on  it  and  coined  the  "yam- 
fool."  Yam  is  Hebrew  and  Yiddish  for  "sea,"  and  Levin 
explained  that  this  variety  of  fool  was  not  to  be  found 
on  land;  his  habitat  was  the  ocean  deep,  among  the  other 
primal  monsters.  Thenceforth,  in  Zionist  circles,  so-and-so 
was  a  yam^  without  the  indelicate  addition.  Yam  could  also 
designate  a  low  type  of  person.  There  was,  many  years 
ago,  a  Yiddish  journalist  writing  under  two  names  for 
a  New  York  daily.  That  he  was  an  anti-Zionist  was  the 
least  of  his  defects;  he  was  equally  cynical,  scurrilous,  and 
boastful  under  both  names.  When  Levin  discovered  that 
the  two  men  were  one,  he  was  overjoyed.  "Thank  God! 
One  yam  fewer  in  the  world." 

Levin  was  an  unhappy  man,  knowing  that  his  im- 
patience and  his  indolence,  in  both  of  which  he  differed 
so  greatly  from  Weizmann,  were  harmful  to  himself  and 



to  the  cause.  He  lacked  also  Weizmann's  spontaneous 
liking  for  simple  people.  But  in  spite  of  these  limitations 
he  was  a  great  popular  force.  He  lifted  Zionist  exposition 
to  a  new  plane,  and  he  was  loved  by  the  masses  because 
he  never  spoke  down  to  them.  I  learned  from  him  a 
principle  of  the  utmost  importance  to  a  professional 
lecturer:  You  may  assume  that  an  audience  is  uninformed 
in  your  field,  but  never  assume  that  it  is  stupid. 

The  lifelong  friendship  between  Levin  and  Weizmann 
began  in  Berlin  in  the  late  eighteen-nineties.  They  were 
both  members,  though  not  at  the  same  time,  of  the  Jildisch- 
Russisch  Wissenschaftliches  Verein,  a  Berlin  group  of 
students  who  long  before  the  coming  of  Herzl  were  advo- 
cating the  creation  of  a  Jewish  State.  It  was  in  effect  a 
group  of  Zionist  founding  fathers,  extraordinary  men  who 
dreamed  the  maddest  of  dreams;  for  if  Zionism  looked 
freakish  and  harebrained  in  the  early  nineteen-hundreds, 
what  must  it  have  looked  like  twenty  years  earlier?  By 
1914,  when  I  became  a  Zionist,  famous  men  like  Max 
Nordau  and  Israel  Zangwill  had  declared  for  the  move- 
ment. Herzl  had  left  his  indelible  stamp  on  it.  The  En- 
cyclopaedia Britannica  of  1911  devotes  two  whole  pages 
to  it — and,  incidentally,  not  much  more  to  Communism. 
There  were  dozens  of  Jewish  colonies  in  Palestine.  But 
in  the  eighteen-nineties  there  were  only  the  faintest  be- 
ginnings of  colonization,  and  in  the  Western  world  the 
movement,  which  was  not  yet  a  movement  but  an  obscure 
and  formless,  though  powerful,  folk  agitation,  must  have 
looked  correspondingly  madder.  Yet  there  they  were, 
these  Russian  Jewish  students,  nearly  all  of  them  penniless, 
sublimely  self-confident,  sublimely  sure  of  their  historic 
mission,  talking  big,  but  big,  about  the  Jewish  state-to-be, 
about  international  diplomacy,  the  alignment  of  the 
powers,  the  buying  off  of  Turkey.  "Mad"  must  be  taken 



literally  here.  When  Theodore  Herzl  showed  the  manu- 
script of  his  Judenstaat  (The  Jewish  State),  the  classic 
document  of  modern  Zionism,  to  a  friend,  he  was  implored 
to  seek  medical  treatment.  No  doubt,  similar  counsel  was 
given  more  than  once  to  members  of  the  Judisch-Russisch 
Wissenschaftliches  Verein. 

The  brilliance  of  these  men  and  their  apparent  nor- 
mality outside  their  one  obsession  must  have  strengthened 
the  suspicion  of  mental  derangement.  All  of  them  were 
gifted  in  various  fields.  Herzl  was  political  reporter  for 
the  Wiener  Neue  Freie  Presse,  The  Manchester  Guardian 
of  Europe,  attached  to  the  French  Chamber  of  Deputies. 
He  was  an  engaging  feuilletonist  and  playwright,  a  man 
of  address  and  wide  reading,  the  kind  of  man  one  calls 
civilized,  until  suddenly,  one  day  .  .  .  And  so  it  was  with 
Weizmann,  Levin,  and  others.  If  you  kept  Levin  on  Rus- 
sian politics,  for  instance,  or  German  literature,  you 
could  listen  for  hours  with  profit;  but  if  you  should  happen 
accidentally  to  touch  on  the  Jewish  problem — "Good 
heavens,"  you  thought,  "what  a  pity!"  And  in  a  sense 
these  men  were  in  fact  derailles.  That  many  of  them  for- 
feited distinguished  worldly  careers  was  to  be  expected 
and  is  not  to  their  discredit:  but  in  their  Zionist  fervor 
they  also  neglected  to  follow  a  systematic  training  which 
would  have  enhanced  their  usefulness  to  the  movement. 
The  impracticality  of  the  Shtetl  clung  to  many  of  them 
throughout  their  lives.  Weizmann  writes  of  them: 

At  first  I  was  greatly  overawed  by  my  fellow-stu- 
dents, among  whom  I  was  the  youngest.  Fresh  from 
little  Pinsk,  with  its  petty  collections  and  small-town 
discussions,  I  was  staggered  by  the  sweep  of  vision 
which  Motzkin  and  Syrkin  and  the  others  displayed. 
There  was  also  a  personal   detail  which  oppressed 



me  at  the  beginning.  I  was  only  a  student  of  chemistry; 
they  were  students  of  philosophy,  history,  economy, 
law  and  other  "higher"  things.  I  was  immensely  at- 
tracted to  them  as  persons  and  as  Zionists;  but 
gradually  I  began  to  feel  that  in  their  personal 
preparations  for  life  they  were  as  vague  as  in  their 
Zionist  plans.  I  had  brought  with  me  out  of  Russia 
a  dread  of  the  "eternal  student"  type,  the  impractical 
idealist  without  roots  in  the  worldly  struggle,  a 
figure  only  too  familiar  in  the  Jewish  world  of  forty 
and  fifty  years  ago.  I  refused  to  neglect  the  lecture 
hall  and  the  laboratory,  to  which  I  gave  at  least  six 
or  seven  hours  a  day.  I  acquired  a  taste  for  research 
work.  In  later  years  I  understood  that  even  deeper 
motives  impelled  me  in  those  days  to  attend  strictly 
to  the  question  of  my  personal  equipment  for  the 
life-struggle  .  .  . 

The  deeper  motives  which  underlay  Weizmann's  sys- 
tematic approach  to  his  life  problem  were  connected  in 
part  with  those  characteristics  which  turned  him  into 
an  able  scientist;  in  part  they  were  connected  with  his 
belief  in  himself,  only  tacit  at  the  beginning,  as  a  "man 
of  destiny."  The  Weizmann  archives  here  in  Rehovoth 
reveal  how  early  Wiezmann  began  to  keep  copious  records 
and  copies  of  correspondence.  He  probably  did  not  foresee 
that  they  would  some  day  be  historical  documents;  he  did 
not  foresee,  of  course,  that  he  would  be  the  first  president 
of  the  Jewish  state;  he  was  only  obeying  an  impulse,  but 
the  "deeper  motives"  were  already  there. 

There  was  no  such  subconscious  arriere  pensee  in 
Levin's  makeup.  Not  that  he  was  without  ambition  or 
suffered  from  modesty;  and  he  was  as  organically  commit- 
ted   to    Zionism    as    Weizmann,    and    was    equally   con- 



vinced  of  the  inevitability  of  a  Jewish  state.  I  doubt 
whether  the  sharpest  insight  would  have  picked  out  the 
superior  figure  between  these  two  Berlin  Russian-Jewish 
students;  but  Weizmann  became  a  world  figure,  while 
Levin's  reputation  is  confined  to  the  Jewish  people,  and 
even  among  them  he  is  being  forgotten.  There  was  a 
time  when  he  was  better  known  than  Weizmann,  and  not 
just  because  he  was  a  few  years  older.  He  was  a  member 
of  the  Russian  Duma  when  Weizmann  was  a  struggling 
chemistry  teacher  in  Manchester;  he  attracted  large 
audiences  in  Europe  and  America.  But  his  achievements 
came  by  fits  and  starts,  not  only  because  of  his  laziness 
but  because  his  high  opinion  of  himself  was  not  geared 
to  greatness.  Every  movement  knows  such  men,  gifted, 
useful,  devoted,  but  lacking  in  a  kind  of  inexorability. 
They  don't  "take  hold"  of  history,  they  are  not  predestined 
leaders,  their  impact  on  people  fails  somewhere.  Levin 
was  admired  or  disliked;  Weizmann  had  his  fanatical 
followers  and  his  fanatical  enemies. 

The  third  of  my  teachers  in  Zionism  and  Jewishness, 
the  poet  Chaim  Nachman  Bialik,  began  to  mold  my 
thinking  some  years  before  I  met  him  in  person.  When 
I  had  mastered  Yiddish  in  America,  I  turned  again  to 
the  poem  Wassilevsky  had  read  to  me  in  Manchester — 
Bialik's  own  translation  of  his  Hebrew  City  of  Slaughter, 
a  bitter  cry  of  outrage  and  despair  wrung  from  him  by 
the  Kishinev  pogrom  of  1903.  Later,  when  my  Hebrew 
was  good  enough,  I  translated  some  of  his  poems  from 
the  original,  and  the  Zionist  Organization  issued  a  small 
volume  of  my  translations  in  1926,  on  the  occasion  of 
Bialik's  first  visit  to  America.  It  was  then  that  I  got  to 
know  him  in  person.  Still  later  I  saw  much  of  him  in 
Palestine,  especially  when  I  lived  two  doors  from  his 
house  on  the  street  named  after  him. 



I  have  not  met  or  read  of  a  poet  who  looked  and  talked 
less  like  one  than  Bialik.  He  had  the  round  face  of  a 
clever  moujik,  and  the  build  of  a  medium-sized  but 
hefty  butcher.  He  must  have  had  in  him  the  blood  of 
Khazars,  the  medieval  Tartar  converts  to  Judaism.  From 
his  appearance  you  expected  sound,  pithy,  earthy  conver- 
sation, and  you  were  not  disappointed.  You  also  expected 
him  to  be  a  good  businessman,  and  he  was.  He  had  run 
a  large  and  successful  printing  plant,  first  in  Odessa,  then, 
after  the  Bolshevik  revolution,  in  Berlin,  and  finally  in 
Tel  Aviv.  He  was  completely  without  literary  affectation; 
but  when  you  got  him  on  to  the  subject  of  books  he 
blazed  into  unquenchable  enthusiasm.  His  Jewish  erudi- 
tion was  enormous,  and  he  was  widely  read  in  other 
literatures.  Once  launched,  he  was  not  to  be  stopped, 
and  one  listened  fascinated  by  the  range  of  his  knowledge 
and  the  luminousness  of  his  observations;  and  still,  never 
a  hint  that  he  was  a  poet  of  the  first  magnitude,  with  few 
equals  in  the  modem  world  and  none  at  all  in  Hebrew 
since  the  time  of  Yehudah  Halevy  nearly  a  thousand  years 

Shmarya  Levin  was  his  partner  in  the  publishing  house 
of  Moriah,  which  issued  a  standard  set  of  the  Hebrew 
classics,  edited  by  Bialik.  To  be  in  their  company  when 
the  conversation  veered  from  business  to  literature  was 
a  fearsome  and  unforgettable  experience;  one  got  a  living 
illustration  of  the  riddle  of  the  immovable  body  and  the 
irresistible  force,  for  both  of  them  were  enthusiasts  and 
tremendous  talkers.  One  of  them  would  be  off  on  a  streak, 
the  other  interjecting  desperately  every  minute  or  two: 
"But  let  me  say  .  .  ."  only  to  meet  the  ferocious  response: 
"Don't  interrupt!"  The  torrent  continued  till  the  speaker, 
pausing  to  catch  his  breath,  would  suddenly  find  himself 
on  the  outside,  vainly  interjecting  in  his  turn:  "But  let 



me  say  .  .  ."  The  bystander,  of  course,  didn't  have  a 
chance  and  didn't  want  one.  Levin  revered  Bialik  as  one 
reveres  a  prophet,  but  the  compulsive  talker  is  not  his 
own  master. 

In  company  there  was  a  perpetual  good  humor  about 
Bialik  which  was  utterly  incomprehensible  when  one  re- 
membered certain  of  his  poems  which  could  only  have 
issued  from  a  deeply  tormented  soul.  In  his  1926  visit  to 
America  I  traveled  with  him  to  several  cities  where  he 
addressed  audiences  in  Yiddish,  I  in  English.  I  was  pre- 
pared, when  we  set  out,  to  have  a  moody  genius  on  my 
hands,  and  I  braced  myself  for  an  exercise  in  tactfulness 
and  understanding.  It  was,  instead,  a  jolly  experience.  He 
was  fascinated  by  the  American  scene,  general  and  Jewish, 
and  his  observations,  usually  directed  at  the  contrast  be- 
tween America  and  Jewish  Palestine,  were  ingenious.  I 
showed  him,  as  a  typically  American  product,  a  copy  of 
The  Saturday  Evening  Post,  which  sold  for  a  nickel  in 
those  days.  It  consisted  of  two  hundred  pages,  more  than 
half  of  them  advertising.  He  said:  "In  opulent  America 
the  problem  of  a  magazine  is:  how  low  can  we  price  it 
without  losing  our  advertising  value?  In  poor  Palestine  it 
is:  how  high  can  we  price  it  without  losing  our  readers?" 
"I've  noticed,"  he  once  remarked,  "that  here  in  America 
you  say:  It's  so  many  hours  from  this  place  to  that.  The  land 
is  so  big  that  distance  loses  its  meaning.  In  little  Palestine 
we  speak  of  kilometres;  every  one  of  them  counts."  He 
was  vastly  amused  when  he  listened  to  my  English  ad- 
dresses; he  understood  not  a  word  of  them,  but  every  now 
and  again  his  name  would  bob  up,  and  it  sounded  to 
him  like:  "Mumble-jumble-bumble — BIALIK — mumble- 
jumble-bumble— CHAIM  NACHMAN  BIALIK— mum- 
ble-jumble-bumble ,  .  ."  As  the  distinguished  visitor,  he 
always  spoke  after  me,  and  he  would  comment  in  various 



ways  on  his  impressions.  "I  have  just  heard  my  friend  Sam- 
uel conducting  me  through  long  and  lightless  corridors."  "I 
felt  like  a  cat  in  a  sack  being  beaten  from  time  to  time."  "I 
felt  like  a  swimmer  on  a  stormy  sea;  now  and  again  I  came 
up  for  air,  most  of  the  time  I  was  drowning."  He  had  a 
quick  eye  for  comical  situations.  I  once  came  across  him, 
during  an  all-night  session  of  a  Zionist  Congress,  contem- 
plating with  fascination  a  fat  delegate  who  had  jammed 
himself  into  an  armchair  in  the  lobby  and  had  fallen 
asleep.  Bialik  pointed  at  him  and  murmured  in  my  ear:  "A 
chairful  of  Jew." 

There  was  no  clue  in  his  personal  bearing  to  the  misery 
and  destitution  of  his  childhood  and  boyhood.  Weizmann 
and  Levin  had  been  born  into  what  by  Shtetl  standards 
were  well-to-do  homes.  They  had  never  known  real  priva- 
tion of  any  kind,  and  they  had  been  immersed  in  warm  and 
happy  families.  Bialik  was  born  into  grinding  poverty,  and 
at  the  age  of  seven  he  had  been  sent  away  to  live  with  a 
stern,  pious,  and  scholarly  grandfather  so  that  his  mother 
would  have  one  mouth  less  to  feed.  His  earliest  memories 
were  of  a  wretched  inn  kept  by  his  sensitive  father  for 
peasants  whose  rude  and  boisterous  ways  he  could  not 
endure.  The  inn  failed  and  the  family  moved  to  the  out- 
skirts of  Zhitomir,  where  his  father  tried  his  hand  at  vari- 
ous occupations,  never  with  success,  so  that  one  by  one 
the  household  possessions  were  sold,  down  to  the  family 
candlesticks — that  last  symbol  of  Jewish  respectability  and 
piety — and  the  mother  had  to  make  the  Sabbath  eve  bene- 
diction over  candles  stuck  into  clay.  Then  the  father  died, 
and  the  mother  peddled  fruit  and  vegetables  from  door  to 
door  to  feed  herself  and  her  seven  children.  In  the  nights 
she  mended  their  garments  and  one  night  a  week  she  baked 
bread  for  them;  and  as  she  kneaded  the  dough  and  im- 
plored God  to  help  her  feed  her  little  ones,  she  wept  into 



the  dough,  so  that  as  Bialik  tells,  her  children  literally 
swallowed  her  tears. 

A  cycle  of  Bialik's  poems  is  dedicated  to  these  oppres- 
sive memories.  In  one  he  asks: 

Would  you  know 
From  whom  I  have  my  heritage  of  song? 
A  singer  settled  in  my  father's  house, 
A  humble,  lonely  soul  who  hid  in  corners, 
And  comforted  his  frailty  in  the  shadows. 
He  had  one  song,  and  only  one,  to  sing. 
The  same  words  always,  set  to  the  same  tune. 
And  when  my  heart  was  frozen  into  silence, 
My  tongue  hard-cleaving  to  my  throbbing  palate, 
My  stomach  empty,  and  my  cry  choked  back 
By  my  unyielding  throat,  his  song  would  wake  me. 
He  was  the  cricket,  minstrel  of  poverty. 

If  you  knew  nothing  of  the  man's  history,  you  would 
declare  from  this  and  the  other  poems  in  the  cycle  that 
childhood  misery  had  set  its  stamp  on  him — were  it  not 
for  another  cycle  in  which  he  celebrates  the  life  of  the 
Jewish  village  with  such  charm  and  gaiety  that  you  are 
ready  to  declare:  "No,  this  is  the  experience,  the  other  is 
painful  imagination  and  empathy."  In  the  end,  unable  to 
reconcile  the  authenticity  of  the  two  extremes,  you  give  up 
the  quest  for  "internal  evidence."  Equally  irresoluble  is 
the  contradiction  in  his  attitude  toward  the  disciplines 
and  sacrifices  of  the  classical  Talmudic  education:  in  one 
place  a  lyrical  glorification  of  the  Jewish  will  to  learning 
and  its  meaning  for  the  preservation  of  the  people,  in  an- 
other a  cry  of  lamentation  for  the  cruelty  and  waste  of  it. 
He  sounds  these  opposite  notes  in  his  poem,  Ha-Matmid,  in 
which  he  describes  the  life  of  the  dedicated  young  Talmud 
student,  who  is  fastened  to  his  books  as  the  Cossack  is  fast- 
ened to  his  horse  in  wartime. 



But  the  battle  is  one  of  self-conquest,  and  it  is  not  fought 
out  under  the  open  sky,  but  in  a  dim,  candle-lit  corner  of 
a  musty  Yeshivah.  Of  the  day's  four  quarters,  three  are 
given  to  combat,  one  to  the  body's  needs — brief  sleep  and 
meager  rations.  Outside,  the  fields  are  magic  with  summer 
green  or  winter  white;  the  boy's  eyes  are  fixed  on  the 
ancient  text.  A  seductive  wind  steals  in  through  the 
window;  he  does  not  even  feel  it  lifting  his  earlocks. 

An  eremite  whose  corner  is  his  cave! 

With  pallid  face  tight-drawn  and  puckered  brows 

He  keeps  his  incommunicable  watch. 

And  in  the  Talmud  under  him  his  soul 

Is  lost  and  locked,  forever  and  forever  .  .  . 

Granite  is  yielding  clay  compared  with  him, 

A  Jewish  boy  unto  the  Torah  vowed. 

There  are  other  students  in  the  Academy,  each  devoted 
in  his  degree,  but  he  is  the  Matmid,  the  fanatic  of  learn- 
ing. Hunger  and  thirst  and  aching  eyes  have  no  power 
over  him.  If  his  mind  wanders  a  moment  from  the  text,  it 
is  to  glance  at  the  glory  of  great  scholars  shining  across  the 
centuries  of  the  Jewish  past,  to  remember  how 

in  the  chastity  of  poverty 
The  people  and  its  sons  have  kept  the  faith  .  .  . 

He  tastes  the  prize 
He  pays  for  with  the  gold  of  youthful  days. 

Is  the  victory  worth  the  sacrifice?  Bialik,  himself  once  a 
Matmid  in  the  Yeshiva  of  Zhitomir,  stares  back  into  the 
past  and  his  mind  becomes  clouded. 

I  in  my  boyhood  was  a  listener 
Among  those  voices,  and  my  youth  was  passed 
With  those  wan  sufferers  whose  wrinkled  brows 
And  staring  eyes  implore  the  world's  compassion. 



And  every  wrinkle  spoke  to  me  in  silence 
Of  passions  stifled  and  of  fires  extinguished  .  .  . 
My  fate  denied  I  should  be  lost  with  you. 
Unhappy  ones!  and  to  the  hearth  you  knew 
Long,  long  ago  I  said  my  last  farewell  .  .  . 
The  times  are  changed;  far  from  your  boundaries 
In  alien  places  have  I  raised  my  altar  .  .  . 
All,  all  of  you  do  I  remember  still — 
The  hungry  childhood  and  the  bitter  manhood, 
And  my  heart  weeps  for  my  unhappy  people  .  .  . 
How  burned,  how  blasted  must  our  portion  be 
If  seed  like  this  must  wither  in  its  soil. 

Once  again,  the  ambivalence  of  the  Jew,  here  expressing 
itself  in  acceptance  and  denial  of  his  traditional  values.  It 
is  as  though  the  poet  were  involved  in  a  love  which  he 
recognizes  as  the  source  of  his  strength  but  knows  to  be 
destructive.  Sometimes  the  love  is  on  the  intellectual  level, 
as  in  this  poem,  sometimes  on  the  homely  level,  as  in  his 
bewitching  Songs  of  the  People. 

In  all  these  qualities,  and  by  virtue  of  his  mastery  of 
language,  Bialik  surpasses  every  contemporary  in  verse  or 
prose,  but  they  do  not  exhaust  his  greatness  and  com- 
plexity. One  aspect  of  him  introduces  a  second  duality.  This 
product  of  the  Shtetl  detaches  himself  completely  from  his 
time  and  place  in  a  great  Miltonic  poem.  The  Dead  of  the 
Wilderness.  The  subject  is  drawn  from  a  Midrashic  legend 
which  tells  that  the  Jews  who  left  Egypt  with  Moses  and 
were  condemned  to  perish  in  the  desert  rose  in  rebellion 
and  tried  to  storm  their  way  into  the  Promised  Land 
against  the  divine  decree.  They  were  thrown  back  and  cast 
into  a  deep  slumber  from  which  they  awaken  periodically 
and  renew  the  attempt,  again  to  be  cast  into  slumber.  Be- 
tween the  spasms  of  fury  their  gigantic  bodies  lie  in  dis- 



order  on  the  burning  sands,  the  black  rocks  surrounding 
them,  the  hot  sun  beating  down  on  their  matted  and 
monstrous  faces,  on  the  weapons  paralyzed  in  their 
clenched  fists,  on  their  silent  tents.  It  is  a  universal  poem 
of  man's  refusal  to  accept  the  decree  of  fate,  and  the  splen- 
dor of  the  imagery  matches  the  grandeur  of  the  theme. 

The  scenic  descriptions  are  overwhelmingly  powerful. 
Those  who  have  read  The  Dead  of  the  Wilderness  and 
have  looked  on  the  desolation  of  the  Sinai  Peninsula  are 
filled  with  wonder  at  the  evocative  imagination  of  a 
ghetto  Jew  who  had  hardly  strayed  outside  the  limits  of 
his  world;  he  has  caught  the  primal  terror  of  the  desert 
as  if  he  had  been  its  prisoner  for  many  years,  as  if  his 
soul  had  been  recast  by  it.  I  once  asked  Bialik  how  these 
images  had  come  to  him.  He  said:  "Outside  my  father's 
inn  there  was  a  little  hill.  I  used  to  lie  on  it  face  down, 
thinking  myself  into  the  desert." 

Bialik  spurred  me  to  the  learning  of  Hebrew  as  Levin 
did  to  the  learning  of  Yiddish;  nevertheless,  Bialik  was  a 
greater  master  of  Yiddish  than  Levin.  He  could  do  in 
poetry  what  Sholom  Aleichem  did  in  prose — portray  the 
lovableness  of  the  ordinary  human  being;  but  he  also  had 
powers  beyond  the  reach  of  Sholom  Aleichem — a  nobility 
of  style  which  at  one  time  I  thought  alien  to  the  spirit  of 
this  folk  language.  There  is  much  talk  today  of  the  decline 
and  approaching  death  of  Yiddish;  it  is,  I  think  exagger- 
ated; but  whenever  I  hear  it  I  think  with  a  pang  of  the 
lovelinesses  that  must  be  locked  away  forever  in  forgotten 



6  Of  an  Old  Tragedy  t 

I  fl7Z6?  «  Bitter  Farce  j 


JL  r  IS  WONDERFUL  to  scc  how,  when  a  special  life-pattern 
is  forming,  the  necessary  accidents  come  along  to  fill  it  out. 
To  be  sure,  something  is  given,  an  initial  pattern  issuing 
from  parents  and  early  environment;  after  that,  life  is  full 
of  accidental  events  and  encounters,  and  a  man  takes  his 
pick  of  them,  letting  this  one  affect  him  more,  that  one 
less,  a  third  not  at  all.  But  there  are  indispensable  acci- 
dents so  improbable,  and  so  contingent  on  preceding 
accidents,  that  we  stand  puzzled  as  before  a  conspiracy. 

The  two  months  I  spent  in  the  late  summer  of  1919  as 
secretary  and  interpreter  for  the  Morgenthau  Pogrom  In- 
vestigation Commission  to  Poland  had  a  permanent  effect 
on  my  already  developed  Jewish  interests.  But  how  did  I 
happen  to  get  a  place  on  that  Commission?  Did  I  hear  of 
its  formation  and  put  in  an  application?  Not  at  all.  I  knew 
nothing  about  the  Commission  till  I  was  offered  the  job. 
It  so  happened  that  the  commanding  officer  of  my  Gil 
unit  had  elected  to  defer  his  demobilization  and  stay  on 
in  Paris  and,  being  on  hand  at  the  center  of  things,  was 
asked  if  he  would  like  to  go  along  with  former  Ambassador 
Morgenthau  to  Poland;  he  answered  he  would  like  it  very 
much,  whereupon  he  was  empowered  to  find  himself  two 


secretaries;  he  selected  me  and  the  friend  with  whom  I 
later  operated  the  stenography  office  in  Paris. 

It  might  be  assumed  at  this  point  that  I  was  chosen  be- 
cause I  knew  Yiddish,  the  language  of  Polish  Jewry,  which 
would  not  have  been  an  accident.  But  my  knowledge  of 
Yiddish  had  nothing  to  do  with  it;  I  wasn't  even  asked 
about  it.  Like  my  friend,  a  non-Jew,  I  was  taken  along  on 
general  grounds,  and  when  my  knowledge  of  Yiddish  was 
discovered  I  became  more  an  interpreter  than  a  secretary. 

But  how  did  I  happen  to  be  in  Gil  to  begin  with?  When 
the  reader  last  heard  about  my  military  career  I  was  in  the 
infantry;  the  fact  is  that  I  went  across  with  the  infantry, 
and  I  was  already  in  the  advanced  zone,  expecting  to  be  at 
the  front  in  a  matter  of  days,  when  our  company  was 
drawn  up  and  all  those  who  could  speak  French  were 
ordered  to  fall  out.  Some  twenty  or  thirty  responded,  a 
circumstance  which  would  be  surprising  in  a  New  York 
outfit  but  was  not  at  all  surprising  in  the  outfit  to  which 
I  now  belonged.  For  after  my  training  with  the  307th 
Infantry  in  Camp  Upton  I  was  transferred  to  Camp  Green, 
near  Charlotte,  North  Carolina,  and  assigned,  for  no  par- 
ticular reason,  to  the  103rd,  originally  the  First  New 
Hampshire  Infantry,  which  had  had  a  contingent  of  men 
who  spoke  Canadian  French;  and  when  Gil  headquarters 
in  Paris  was  recruiting  its  personnel  it  sent  round  to  the 
Louisiana  and  Northern  New  England  regiments  for  can- 
didates. Of  the  twenty  or  thirty  men  in  my  company  who 
were  examined  half  a  dozen  or  so  were  chosen,  I  among 
them.  We  were  sent  up  to  Paris,  fitted  out  in  civilian 
clothes,  and  distributed  to  various  points  in  France. 

That  was  how  I  got  into  the  Bordeaux  unit  of  Gil,  and 
what  we  did  there  for  nearly  a  year  by  way  of  counter- 
espionage I  never  found  out.  We  lived  in  private  lodgings, 
and  went  every  weekday  to  an  office  on  the  rue  Esprit  des 



Lois.  Evenings  and  Sundays  I  used  to  take  Hebrew  lessons 
from  a  Palestinian  medical  student  at  the  local  university. 
(I  continued  these  later  in  Berlin  and  Vienna,  when  I  was 
attached  to  the  Reparations  Commission,  In  Vienna  I  had 
an  office  in  the  huge  Kriegsministerium,  and  there  I  did 
my  first  translations  of  Bialik,  under  the  noses  of  Austrian 
generals  in  effigy.)  But  how  was  it  that  my  French  was  good 
enough  to  get  me  into  Gil?  Well,  it  was  the  only  subject  I 
did  well  at  as  a  student.  That,  in  turn,  was  undoubtedly 
due  to  the  fact  that  as  a  child  I  had  spent  a  year  in  Paris. 
My  childhood  year  in  Paris,  too,  was  an  accident.  When 
we  left  Rumania  in  1900,  our  destination  was,  at  my 
mother's  inflexible  insistence,  England,  the  country  with- 
out military  conscription,  and  we  stayed  on  in  Paris  as  long 
as  we  did  only  because  my  father  had  two  half-brothers 
there.  Also,  I  mightn't  have  gone  to  Paris  in  1914  if  I 
hadn't  already  felt  at  home  in  the  language. 

Such,  in  brief,  was  the  series  of  accidents  which  along  a 
meandering  route  of  twenty  years  dovetailed  to  land  me  on 
the  Polish  Pogrom  Investigation  Commission  and  fill  out 
an  important  area  in  my  life-pattern, 

I  was  thrilled  by  the  prospect  of  a  sojourn  among  the 
Jews  of  Eastern  Europe,  and,  let  me  add,  elated  by  the 
privilege  of  working  on  an  official  body  headed  by  a  man 
of  ambassadorial  rank,  with  whom  I  would  surely  have 
occasional  contacts,  in  however  obscure  a  capacity.  An 
ambassador  was  a  romantic  and  awesome  figure  to  me,  far 
more  so  than  a  prime  minister  or  a  secretary  of  state.  These 
were  politicians,  immensely  able  perhaps,  but  politicians 
still,  men  of  the  hustings,  exploiters  of  mob  psychology.  An 
ambassador  was  of  a  different  breed;  he  was  appointed  for 
his  knowledge  of  men  and  history,  for  his  savoir-faire,  his 
subtlety  and  charm.  Dishonest  and  devious  he  might  be, 
but  these  qualities  would  be  marked  by  distinction,  adroit- 
ness, and  wit,  I  was  twenty-four  years  old, 



My  knowledge  of  Yiddish  brought  me  into  more  fre- 
quent contact  with  Ambassador  Morgenthau  than  I  had 
dared  to  anticipate.  Morgenthau  spoke  German,  but  not 
Yiddish,  and  in  spite  of  a  widespread  belief  to  the  con- 
trary, there  is  a  great  gap  between  the  two  languages.  The 
vocabulary  of  Yiddish  is,  indeed,  nine  tenths  of  German 
origin,  but  the  spirit  and  the  idioms  of  Yiddish  are  its  own, 
and  what  with  its  admixture  of  Hebrew  words  and  its  pro- 
nunciation, which  varies  from  section  to  section  of  East 
European  Jewry,  it  can  be  quite  unintelligible,  except  for 
the  most  primitive  exchanges,  to  one  who  knows  only 
German.  Similarly,  formal  German  can  be  unintelligible 
to  one  who  knows  only  Yiddish.  Morgenthau  would  often 
call  me  in  when  he  found  the  going  hard  with  some  par- 
ticular delegation;  he  would  make  part  of  his  address  in 
English,  and  I  would  interpret.  I  got  to  dislike  these 
occasions  intensely  because  of  the  curious  things  Morgen- 
thau said.  I  did  not  mind  interpreting  for  General  Jadwin 
or  Mr.  Homer  Johnson,  the  other  top  members  of  the 
Commission;  they  did  not  think  it  part  of  their  duty  to 
make  speeches. 

The  question  before  the  Commission  was  not  whether 
violent  outbreaks  against  the  Jews  had  taken  place  in 
newly  liberated  Poland;  there  was  no  denying  that  they 
had;  hundreds  of  Jews  had  been  killed,  thousands 
wounded;  thousands  of  Jewish  homes  had  been  pillaged 
and  destroyed.  Whatever  the  official  statement,  the  real 
terms  of  reference  of  the  investigation  had,  at  least  for  me, 
a  wider  purpose.  Were  the  "outbreaks"  a  symptom  of  a 
deep-rooted  national  condition,  or  had  they  been,  as  the 
Polish  government  loudly  protested — while  minimizing 
their  extent — random  mob  explosions  in  a  lawless  time  of 
transition?  Were  they  merely  part  of  that  "turbulent 
interim  period"  which  I  had  accepted  as  the  inevitable 
but  brief  prelude  to  the  universal  reign  of  law?  And  if 



anti-Semitism  was  indeed  an  organic  element  in  Polish 
life,  what  was  the  attitude  of  the  Polish  ruling  classes? 
Were  they  fighting  it,  or  were  they  exploiting  it? 

From  beginning  to  end  the  investigations  were  bitterly 
discouraging;  anti-Semitism  revealed  itself  immediately 
as  a  national  disease,  and  Polish  officialdom  was  as  widely 
infected  as  Russian  officialdom  had  been  before  it.  Yet 
from  beginning  to  end  Morgenthau  kept  talking  to  Jewish 
delegations  as  if  he  had  undertaken  to  compose  an  un- 
fortunate and  essentially  senseless  quarrel  in  which  there 
was  as  much  to  be  said  on  one  side  as  on  the  other:  for  the 
solution  of  the  problem  nothing  more  was  needed  than  a 
bit  of  horse  sense  and  some  mutual  concessions. 

In  soothing,  fatherly  speeches  he  counseled  Polish  Jewry 
to  take  an  example  from  America,  where  Jews  and  gentiles 
got  along  in  perfect  harmony  because  the  Jews  didn't  insist 
on  too  much  Jewishness.  He  earnestly  admonished  Polish 
Jewry  to  forget  the  unhappy  past — that  was  the  only  way 
to  prevent  it  from  recurring.  "All  citizens  of  Poland,"  he 
repeated  again  and  again — and  he  incorporated  the  advice 
in  his  report — "should  realize  that  they  must  live  together" 
— as  if  the  pogroms  had  been  two-sided.  There  had  been, 
he  conceded,  unfortunate  incidents,  but  the  future  was 
bright.  He  was  particularly  fond  of  a  metaphor  which  be- 
came a  nightmare  to  me  because  I  had  to  translate  it  so 
frequently.  "Look  at  the  doughnut,  not  at  the  hole."  Every 
time  I  had  to  mention  the  beigel — the  nearest  Jewish 
equivalent  to  a  doughnut — and  the  loch,  the  hole,  I  stam- 
mered and  squirmed  and  blushed.  The  word  loch  unfortu- 
nately had  a  coarse  connotation  in  that  context;  I  could  not 
avoid  it  because  it  is  also  the  German  word,  and  Morgen- 
thau, in  love  with  the  metaphor,  insisted  on  a  literal 
translation.  I  was  too  timid  to  explain  the  source  of  my 



That  Morgenthau  meant  what  he  was  saying  was  un- 
thinkable to  me;  it  was  too  driveling.  As  the  weeks  passed 
and  the  work — and  the  speeches — went  on  in  various 
cities,  I  wavered  for  a  time  between  two  theories.  Accord- 
ing to  the  first,  Morgenthau  was  biding  his  time;  he  would, 
while  temporarily  offending  and  perplexing  the  Jews, 
avoid  antagonizing  the  Polish  authorities,  whose  co-oper- 
ation he  needed,  until  all  the  facts  were  in;  then  he  would 
speak  out.  That  was  diplomacy  in  high  gear,  crafty  and 
patient,  uncomfortable  to  watch,  but  understandable. 
According  to  the  second  theory,  also  understandable  but 
appalling  rather  than  uncomfortable,  the  Ambassador  was 
"doing  a  job"  for  the  American  and  Polish  governments. 
He  was,  on  instruction,  playing  the  situation  down  for  the 
sake  of  friendly  relations  between  America  and  Poland, 
and  his  report  would  be  of  a  piece  with  his  speeches.  What 
the  ultimate  effect  would  be  on  the  position  of  the  Jews 
of  Poland  was  secondary;  perhaps  it  did  not  even  come  into 
the  picture;  the  real  purpose  of  the  Commission  was  to 
gloss  things  over  and  hope  for  the  best,  while  Morgen- 
thau's  overriding  purpose  was  to  win  for  himself  the 
reputation  of  a  gifted  manipulator  on  the  international 
scene,  a  Jewish  Metternich,  a  new  Disraeli. 

If  the  second  theory  was  right,  the  man  was,  I  thought,  a 
villain.  On  that  theory,  he  would  of  course  still  have  to 
testify  to  certain  facts,  those  which  stared  the  personnel  of 
the  Commission  in  the  face;  he  would,  however,  conceal 
others,  less  concrete  but  of  wider  bearing,  without  which 
the  reported  facts  would  lack  the  proper  framework  and 
lose  most  of  their  significance.  He  would  obscure  the 
fundamental  issue  by  hints  and  double  talk,  so  that  public 
opinion  would  be  more  confused  than  ever. 

In  the  event,  it  turned  out  that  both  of  my  theories  as 
to  the  character  of  the  man  were  wrong,  but  I  held  on  to 



the  second  for  a  long  time.  I  discarded  the  first  before  the 
work  of  the  Commission  was  completed.  "This  is  a  wicked 
man,"  I  said  to  myself.  "He  is  going  to  sell  the  Jews  out." 
I  was  so  firmly  convinced  of  Morgenthau's  wickedness — 
though  I  ought  to  mention  that  he  treated  me  with  great 
kindness — that  I  did  not  want  to  see  the  report  when  it 
was  made  public  by  the  American  State  Department  in 
October  1919.  It  was  when  I  returned  to  America  in  1921 
that  it  was  thrust  on  my  attention;  and  if  I  ultimately 
changed  my  views  as  to  Mr.  Morgenthau's  character,  my 
anticipations  as  to  the  character  of  the  report  were  com- 
pletely confirmed. 

I  may  be  asked  why  I  am  hashing  up  these  old  and  half- 
forgotten  matters.  They  are,  it  is  true,  part  of  my  personal 
record;  they  wove  themselves  into  my  life.  But  is  that 
reason  enough  to  revert  to  them  when  it  were  best  that 
they  should  be  forgotten  altogether?  I  shall  try  to  show, 
however,  that  even  with  all  that  has  happened  since,  with 
all  those  horrors  which  have  made  the  Polish  pogroms  of 
1918-1919  look  trivial,  the  Morgenthau  Commission  and 
its  report  have  an  enduring  interest  for  us. 

Now,  with  regard  to  the  bare  facts  of  the  pogroms  as 
such,  the  Morgenthau  report  is  honest  enough.  But  I  re- 
member that  when  I  first  read  it  I  was  immediately  struck 
by  a  curious  sentence  in  the  introductory  remarks.  "The 
use  of  the  word  'pogrom'  has  purposely  been  avoided,  as 
the  word  is  applied  to  everything  from  petty  outrages  to 
premeditated  and  carefully  organized  massacres."  "Ex- 
cesses" is  the  word  which  is  regularly  substituted  for 
"pogrom."  As  far  as  I  knew,  and  as  far  as  the  dictionaries 
know,  "excesses"  does  not  have  a  more  restricted  connota- 
tion than  "pogrom."  But — and  the  dictionaries  agree — 
with  or  without  bloodshed  a  pogrom  is  an  act  of  riot  and 
pillage  and  sometimes  of  murder  instigated  or  committed 



by  government  officials.  The  word  "pogrom,"  I  at  once 
suspected,  was  really  avoided  lest  the  report  seem  to  reflect 
on  Polish  officialdom  and  the  Polish  government.  The 
brutal  truth  turned  out  to  be  that  Polish  officialdom  and 
the  Polish  government  were,  by  acts  of  commission  and 
omission,  deeply  implicated,  when  not  as  instigators,  then 
as  connivers.  The  report  itself  awkwardly  and  grudgingly 
reveals  as  much;  and  certain  facts  still  verifiable  today  are 
even  more  revealing  in  this  respect.  We  shall  see  that 
Morgenthau's  foray  into  semantics  was  motivated  by  some- 
thing other  than  literary  fastidiousness. 

Eight  pogroms  are  listed  in  the  report.  The  first,  at 
Kielce,  occurred  on  November  ii  (Armistice  Day).  Four 
Jews  were  killed  and  many  wounded.  "A  number  of  civil- 
ians have  been  indicted  for  participation  in  this  excess," 
says  the  report,  issued  nearly  a  year  later,  "but  have  not  as 
yet  been  brought  to  trial."  (My  italics  here  and  in  the  fol- 
lowing quotations.  M.S.) 

The  second  pogrom  took  place  at  Lemberg  (now  Lvov) 
and  was  prolonged  for  three  days,  November  21-23. 

Sixty-four  Jews  were  killed  and  a  large  amount  of 
property  destroyed.  Thirty-eight  houses  were  set  on 
fire  .  .  .  The  synagogue  was  also  burned  and  a  large 
number  of  the  sacred  scrolls  were  destroyed.  The  re- 
pression of  the  disorders  was  rendered  more  difficult 
by  the  prevailing  lack  of  discipline  among  the  junior 
officers  to  apply  stern  punitive  measures.  On  Decem- 
ber 24,  1918,  the  Polish  Government,  through  the 
Ministry  of  Justice,  began  a  strict  investigation  .  .  . 
164  persons,  ten  of  them  Jews,  have  been  tried  for 
complicity  in  the  November  disorders  .  .  .  Forty-four 
persons  are  under  sentences  ranging  from  ten  days  to 
eighteen  months.  Aside  from  the  civil  courts  the  local 



court-martial  has  sentenced  military  persons  to  con- 
finement for  as  long  as  three  years  for  lawlessness  dur- 
ing the  period  in  question. 

The  third  pogrom  took  place  in  Pinsk  on  the  afternoon 
of  April  5,  1919.  In  this  particularly  beastly  incident  one 
may  reasonably  challenge  the  use  of  the  word  "pogrom," 
since  there  was  neither  riot  nor  civic  disorder  attached  to 

Some  seventy-five  Jews  of  both  sexes,  with  the  offi- 
cial permission  of  the  town  commander,  gathered  in 
the  assembly  hall  at  the  People's  House  ...  to  discuss 
the  distribution  of  relief  sent  by  the  American  Joint 
Distribution  Committee.  As  the  meeting  was  about 
to  adjourn  it  was  interrupted  by  a  band  of  soldiers, 
who  arrested  and  searched  the  whole  assembly,  and 
after  robbing  the  prisoners  marched  them  at  a  rapid 
pace  to  gendarmerie  headquarters.  Thence  the  pris- 
oners were  conducted  to  the  market-place  and  lined 
up  against  the  wall  of  the  cathedral.  With  no  lights 
except  the  lamp  of  a  military  automobile,  the  six 
women  in  the  crowd  and  about  twenty-five  men  were 
separated  from  the  mass,  and  the  remainder,  thirty- 
five  in  number,  were  shot  with  scant  deliberation  and 
no  trial  whatsoever.  Early  the  next  morning  three 
victims  were  shot  in  cold  blood  as  soon  as  life  revealed 
itself  in  them  .  .  .  The  women  and  the  other  re- 
prieved prisoners  were  confined  in  the  city  jail  until 
the  following  Thursday.  The  women  were  stripped 
and  beaten  by  the  prison  guards  so  severely  that  sev- 
eral of  them  were  bedridden  for  weeks,  and  the  men 
were  subjected  to  similar  maltreatment. 

It  has  been  asserted  officially  by  the  Polish  authori- 
ties that  there  was  reason  to  suspect  this  assemblage  of 



Bolshevist  allegiance.  We  are  convinced  that  no  argu- 
ments of  a  Bolshevist  nature  were  mentioned  in  the 
meeting  in  question  .  .  .  We  are  convinced  that  Major 
Luszynski,  the  crown  commander,  showed  repre- 
hensible and  frivolous  readiness  to  place  credence  in 
such  untested  assertions.  .  .  . 

The  statement  made  officially  by  General  Litowsky 
that  the  Jewish  population  on  April  5  attacked  the 
Polish  troops,  are  regarded  as  devoid  of  founda- 
tion .  .  . 

Though  there  have  been  official  investigations  of 
this  case  none  of  the  offenders  answerable  for  this 
summary  execution  has  been  punished  or  even  tried, 
nor  has  the  Diet  Commission  published  its  findings. 

The  fourth  pogrom  took  place  in  Lida  on  April  17, 
1919.  The  city  having  been  taken  that  day  from  the  Bol- 

the  soldiers  proceeded  to  enter  and  rob  the  houses  of 
the  Jews.  During  the  period  of  the  pillage  thirty-nine 
Jews  were  killed.  A  large  number  of  Jews,  including 
the  local  rabbi,  were  arbitrarily  arrested  on  the  same 
day  by  the  Polish  authorities  and  kept  for  twenty-four 
hours  without  food  amid  revolting  conditions.  Jews 
were  also  impressed  for  forced  labor  without  respect 
for  age  or  infirmity.  It  does  not  appear  that  anyone 
has  been  punished  for  these  excesses  .  .  . 

The  fifth  pogrom  took  place  in  Vilna. 

On  April  19  Polish  detachments  entered  the  city 
of  Vilna.  The  city  was  definitely  taken  by  the  Poles 
after  three  days  of  fighting,  during  which  time  they 
lost  thirty-three  men.  During  the  same  period  sixty- 
five  Jews  lost  their  lives.  From  the  evidence  submitted, 



it  appears  that  none  of  these  people,  among  whom 
were  four  women  and  eight  men  over  fifty  years  of  age, 
had  served  with  the  Bolsheviki.  Eight  Jews  were 
marched  three  kilometres  to  the  outskirts  of  the  city 
of  Vilna  and  deliberately  shot  without  the  semblance 
of  a  trial  or  investigation.  No  list  has  been  furnished 
the  Mission  of  any  Polish  civilians  killed  during  the 
occupation  .  .  .  Over  two  thousand  Jewish  houses  and 
stores  were  entered  by  Polish  soldiers  and  civilians 
during  these  three  days  and  the  inhabitants  robbed 
and  beaten.  Many  of  the  poorest  families  were  robbed 
of  their  shoes  and  blankets.  Hundreds  of  Jews  were 
arrested  and  deported  from  the  city.  Some  of  them 
were  herded  into  box  cars  and  kept  without  food  or 
water  for  four  days.  Two  of  these  prisoners  have  since 
died  from  the  treatment  they  received.  Included  in 
the  list  were  some  of  the  most  prominent  Jews  of 
Vilna,  such  as  the  prominent  writers  Jaffe  and  Niger. 
Up  to  August  ^rd,  igig,  when  the  Mission  was  in 
Vilna,  none  of  the  soldiers  or  civilians  responsible  for 
these  excesses  had  been  punished. 

The  sixth  pogrom  took  place  in  Kolbussowa. 

For  a  few  days  before  May  7,  1919,  the  Jews  of 
Kolbussowa  feared  that  excesses  might  take  place,  as 
there  had  been  riots  in  the  neighboring  towns  of 
Rsoszow  and  Glasgow.  These  riots  had  been  the  result 
of  political  agitation  in  this  district,  and  excitement 
caused  by  a  case  of  alleged  ritual  murder  in  which  the 
Jewish  defendant  had  been  acquitted.  On  May  5  a 
company  of  soldiers  was  ordered  to  Kolbussowa  to 
prevent  the  threatened  trouble.  Early  in  the  morning 
of  May  7  a  great  number  of  peasants,  among  whom 
were   many   former  soldiers   of  the  Austrian   army, 



entered  the  town.  The  rioters  disarmed  the  soldiers 
and  three  peasants  had  been  killed.  They  then  pro- 
ceeded to  rob  the  Jewish  stores  and  to  beat  any  Jews 
who  fell  into  their  hands.  Eight  Jews  were  killed 
during  this  excess.  Order  was  restored  when  a  new 
detachment  of  soldiers  arrived  late  in  the  afternoon. 
One  of  the  rioters  has  since  been  tried  and  executed 
by  the  Polish  Government. 

The  seventh  pogrom  took  place  in  Czestochowa. 

On  May  27,  1919,  at  Czestochowa  a  shot  fired  by 
an  unknown  person  slightly  wounded  a  Polish  sol- 
dier. A  rumor  spread  that  the  shot  had  been  fired  by 
Jews  [sic!  M.S.]  and  riots  broke  out  in  the  city,  in 
which  Polish  soldiers  and  civilians  took  part.  During 
these  riots  five  Jews,  including  a  doctor  who  was 
hurrying  to  aid  one  of  the  injured,  were  beaten  to 
death  and  a  large  number  wounded.  French  officers 
who  were  stationed  at  Czestochowa  took  an  active  part 
in  preventing  further  murders. 

No  mention  is  made  in  this  section  of  trial  or  punish- 
ment of  the  rioters. 

The  eighth  and  last  pogrom  listed  in  the  report  (there 
were  others,  but  they  were  minor,  and  "their  detailed 
description  has  not  been  considered  necessary,  inasmuch 
as  they  present  no  characteristics  not  already  observed  in 
the  principle  excesses")  took  place  under  peculiar  circum- 

On  August  8,  1919,  the  Polish  troops  took  the  city 
of  Minsk  from  the  Bolsheviki.  The  Polish  troops 
entered  the  city  at  about  ten  o'clock,  and  by  twelve 
o'clock  they  had  absolute  control.  Notwithstanding 
the  presence  in  Minsk  of  General  Jadwin  and  other 



members  o£  this  Mission,  and  the  orders  of  the  Polish 
General  forbidding  violence  against  civilians,  thirty- 
one  Jews  were  killed  by  the  soldiers  .  .  .  During  the 
afternoon  and  in  the  evening  the  Polish  soldiers,  aided 
by  civilians,  plundered  377  shops,  all  of  which  be- 
longed to  Jews  .  .  .  No  effective  attempt  was  made  to 
prevent  these  robberies  until  the  next  day,  when  ade- 
quate officers'  patrols  were  sent  out  and  order  estab- 
lished. The  Polish  Government  has  stated  that  jour 
Polish  soldiers  were  killed  while  attempting  to  pre- 
vent robberies.  It  has  also  been  stated  to  the  Mission 
that  some  of  the  rioters  have  been  executed. 

No  attempt  was  made  by  the  Commission  to  verify  these 
statements  of  the  Polish  government. 

The  Polish  government's  action  on  the  Minsk  pogrom 
has  an  interest  of  its  own.  The  Yiddish  papers  were  per- 
mitted to  print  the  story,  which  was  in  complete  agreement 
with  the  report  brought  back  to  the  Morgenthau  Commis- 
sion by  General  Jadwin  and  the  other  eyewitness  members 
of  the  Commission.  The  Official  Polish  Telegraph  Agency, 
government-controlled,  printed  a  counterreport  stating 
that  only  seven  Jews  had  been  killed,  and  these  either 
accidentally  or  deservedly.  Side  by  side  with  this  Polish 
version  appeared,  naturally,  the  usual  editorial  comment 
branding  the  Jewish  reports  as  wild  and  slanted  exagger- 
ations the  purpose  of  which  was  to  traduce  Poland  in  the 
eyes  of  the  world.  The  government  could  of  course  have 
obtained  General  Jadwin's  report,  which  also  contained 
the  statement  that  not  a  single  case  of  Jews  shooting  on 
Polish  troops  had  been  observed.  Perhaps  the  Polish  gov- 
ernment did  obtain  that  report,  but  in  printing  its  own 
report  as  a  counterblast  to  the  report  in  the  Yiddish  news- 
papers, it  added,  as  clinching  evidence  of  its  own  truthful- 



ness  and  of  the  mendacity  and  perfidy  of  the  Jews: 
"General  Jadwin  was  an  eyewitness  of  the  taking  of  the 
town."  It  is  scarcely  necessary  to  add  that  when  the  Yiddish 
press  published  General  Jadwin's  report,  corroborating  its 
own,  the  government  and  the  Polish  press  ignored  it. 

In  quoting  from  the  Morgenthau  report  I  have  italicized 
those  points  which  bear  on  the  punishment  of  the  pogrom- 
ists  and  the  official  concealment  of  the  facts. 

In  only  two  instances  was  there  so  much  as  a  claim  on 
the  part  of  the  Polish  government  that  it  had  acted  with 
anything  like  the  appropriate  severity;  and  the  lenity  with 
which  it  actually  proceeded  against  offenders  in  the  first 
five  pogroms  was  mirrored  in  the  connivance  of  local 
authorities  and  much  of  the  military.  The  report  makes 
some  comment  in  this  connection: 

It  is  [therefore]  agreed  that  a  more  aggressive  puni- 
tive policy  and  a  more  general  publicity  of  judicial 
and  military  prosecutions  would  have  minimized  sub- 
sequent riots  by  discouraging  the  belief  among  the 
soldiery  that  robbery  and  violence  could  be  com- 
mitted with  impunity. 

To  anyone  who  reads  the  report  with  attention,  this 
comment  is  ludicrous  in  its  feebleness.  But  when  addi- 
tional facts  not  mentioned  in  the  report  are  taken  into 
consideration,  the  word  that  suggests  itself  is  not  "ludi- 
crous" but  "cynical."  The  report  states  correctly  that  the 
Diet  Commission  set  up  to  investigate  the  massacre  at 
Pinsk  on  April  5,  1919,  had  not  published  its  findings  by 
August  3;  it  does  not  state  that  the  Jewish  newspapers 
which  tried  to  tell  the  story  of  what  happened  in  Pinsk 
were  confiscated  by  the  government.  With  a  kind  of  senile 
gravity  the  report  suggests  the  advisability  of  "a  more  gen- 
eral publicity"  when  in  fact  an  immense  conspiracy  of 



silence  and  deception  accompanied  the  pogroms.  The  Pol- 
ish public,  including  the  intelligentsia,  was  at  one  with 
the  government  in  the  conspiracy.  Shortly  after  the  pogrom, 
the  poet  Leib  Jaffe,  mentioned  in  the  Vilna  section  of  the 
report,  wrote  in  his  newspaper.  Die  Yiddishe  Zeitung,  an 
editorial  under  the  caption  "Days  of  Loneliness." 

What  was  Polish  society  doing,  what  was  Polish 
society  saying  when  the  Jewry  of  Vilna  was  agonizing 
in  its  blood?  Where  was  the  Polish  intelligentsia?  Did 
the  bleeding,  humiliated  Jews  of  Vilna  hear  a  single 
voice  of  sympathy  and  protest  from  the  side  of  the 
Poles?  Some  individual  Poles  did,  it  is  true,  come  to 
the  defense  of  certain  individual  Jews.  There  were 
cases,  too,  of  Polish  priests  defending,  at  the  risk  of 
their  lives,  the  Jews  of  little  villages  round  Vilna.  But 
where  was  the  Polish  social  body  as  such?  Where  was 
an  appeal  to  be  seen,  or  a  newspaper  standing  up 
against  these  events?  .  .  .  Perhaps  the  hardest  thing 
to  bear  these  days  has  been  the  loneliness,  the  aban- 
doned condition  in  which  we  found  ourselves. 

I  met  Leib  Jaffe  in  Vilna  during  the  sessions  of  the  Com- 
mission, before  which  he  appeared  as  a  witness.  He  had 
seen  his  wife  lashed  by  a  Polish  soldier,  his  friend  Weiter 
killed,  and  Welter's  friend,  Madame  Sherman,  wounded. 
Together  with  Samuel  Niger,  the  distinguished  literary 
critic,  and  others,  he  had  had  to  run  a  long  gauntlet  be- 
tween two  lines  of  hooligans  wielding  belts  and  clubs — a 
favorite  game  with  Polish  anti-Semites.  Our  meeting  in 
Vilna  was  official;  I  got  to  know  him  better,  years  later,  in 
Palestine — a  gentle,  smiling  man,  a  gifted  poet,  and  a  lover 
of  humanity.  He  was  killed,  in  the  land  to  which  he  had 
gone  to  find  a  happier  life,  when  the  Jewish  Agency  build- 
ing in  Jerusalem  was  blown  up  by  Arabs.  He  was  a  man 



incapable  of  hate  or  resentment.  In  another  editorial,  also 
published  soon  after  the  Vilna  pogrom,  he  wrote: 

One  thing  must  be  said  these  days.  The  soul  of  our 
people  is  filled  with  indignation  and  sorrow,  but  in  it 
there  is  no  feeling  of  enmity  and  revenge.  Even  at  a 
time  like  this  we  can  rise  to  historic  heights.  We 
know,  we  are  certain,  that  the  heavy,  asphyxiating 
atmosphere  in  which  we  are  living  will  become  fresher 
and  freer  .  .  . 

Alas  for  his  hopes!  They  belonged  to  a  time  when  mil- 
lions of  the  oppressed  were  caught  up  in  the  dream  of  a 
better  world  order  born  of  the  war  to  end  war.  When  he 
wrote  those  editorials  Leib  Jaffe  believed — so  he  told  me 
in  Jerusalem — that  through  the  Morgenthau  report  the 
world  would  learn  the  truth  about  Poland's  attitude  toward 
its  Jewish  citizens,  and  world  pressure  would  bring 
about  a  radical  change  in  Poland.  He  lost  this  belief  when 
the  report  was  issued. 

But  I  have  not  yet  touched  on  the  most  disheartening 
and  offensive  elements  in  the  Morgenthau  report.  What  I 
have  quoted  so  far  is  enough,  I  suggest,  to  indicate  that 
Morgenthau  ought  to  have  known  from  his  own  investi- 
gations how  deeply  rooted  anti-Semitism  was  in  the  Polish 
masses.  But  there  is  more. 

Whereas  it  has  been  easy  to  determine  the  excesses 
which  took  place  and  to  fix  the  approximate  number 
of  deaths,  it  was  more  difficult  to  establish  the  extent 
of  anti-Jewish  discrimination.  The  discrimination 
finds  its  most  conspicuous  manifestation  in  the  form 
of  the  economic  boycott.  The  National  Democratic 
Party  has  continuously  agitated  the  economic  stran- 
gling of  the  Jews  .  .  .  Landowners  are  warned  not  to 



sell  their  property  to  Jews,  and  in  some  cases  where 
such  sales  have  been  made  the  names  of  the  offenders 
have  been  posted  within  black-bordered  notices,  stat- 
ing that  such  vendors  are  "dead  to  Poland."  Even  at 
the  present  time  this  campaign  is  being  waged  by  most 
of  the  non-Jewish  press,  which  constantly  advocates 
that  the  economic  boycott  be  used  as  a  means  of  rid- 
ding Poland  of  its  Jews. 

And  again: 

Besides  these  excesses  there  have  been  reported  to 
the  Mission  numerous  cases  of  other  forms  of  persecu- 
tion. Thus  in  almost  every  one  of  the  cities  and  towns 
of  Poland,  Jews  have  been  stopped  by  the  soldiers  and 
have  had  their  beards  either  torn  out  or  cut  off.  As 
the  Orthodox  Jews  feels  that  the  shaving  of  their 
beards  is  contrary  to  their  religious  belief,  this  form 
of  persecution  has  a  particular  significance  for  them. 

A  strange  sentence,  this:  I  cannot  help  wondering 
whether  a  non-Orthodox  Jew  who  wore  a  beard — say  like 
Theodore  Herzl,  or  Chaim  Weizmann,  or  even  Morgen- 
thau  himself — ^would  "feel"  less  while  having  it  torn  out. 
But  the  beard  was  only  one  of  many  Jewish  characteristics. 
The  Jews  of  Poland  had  a  life  of  their  own,  developed  in 
the  course  of  ten  centuries.  They  formed,  with  their  three 
millions,  fourteen  per  cent  of  the  population.  Their  right 
to  their  traditional  way  of  life  had  been  recognized  at  the 
Versailles  Peace  Conference,  had  been  contractually  con- 
firmed by  Poland's  representatives.  The  report  notes: 

A  new  Polish  constitution  is  now  in  the  making. 
The  general  scope  of  this  national  instrument  has 
already  been  indicated  by  the  special  treaty  with  the 
Allied  and  Associated  Powers  in  which  Poland  has 
affirmed  its  fidelity  to  the  principles  of  liberty  and 



justice  and  the  rights  of  minorities,  and  we  are  certain 
that  Poland  will  be  faithful  to  its  pledge  which  is  so 
conspicuously  in  harmony  with  the  nation's  best 

But  what  grounds  did  Morgenthau  have  for  such  cer- 
tainty, and  what  encouragement  to  be  faithful  to  the  prin- 
ciples of  liberty  and  justice  can  the  Poles  have  found  in  the 
following  passage? 

In  considering  the  causes  for  the  anti-Semitic  feel- 
ing which  has  brought  about  the  manifestations 
described  above,  it  must  be  remembered  that  since  the 
partition  of  1 795  the  Poles  have  striven  to  be  reunited 
as  a  nation  and  to  regain  their  freedom.  This  con- 
tinual eflfort  to  keep  alive  their  national  aspirations 
has  caused  them  to  look  with  hatred  upon  anything 
which  might  interfere  with  their  aims.  This  has  led 
to  a  conflict  with  the  national  declarations  of  some  of 
the  Jewish  organizations  which  desire  to  establish  cul- 
tural autonomy  ...  In  addition,  the  position  taken 
by  the  Jews  in  favor  of  Article  93  of  the  Treaty  of 
Versailles,  guaranteeing  protection  to  racial,  linguistic 
and  religious  minorities  in  Poland,  has  created  a 
further  resentment  against  them.  Moreover,  Polish 
national  feeling  is  irritated  by  what  is  regarded  as  the 
"alien"  character  of  the  great  mass  of  the  Jewish  popu- 
lation. This  is  constantly  brought  home  to  the  Poles 
by  the  fact  that  the  majority  of  the  Jews  affect  a  dis- 
tinctive dress,  observe  the  Sabbath  on  Saturday,  con- 
duct business  on  Sunday,  have  separate  dietary  laws, 
wear  long  beards,  and  speak  a  language  of  their 
own  .  . . 

That  Article  93  was  forced  on  the  Poles  by  the  Allies 
who  had  given  them  their  freedom  is  true;  that  the  Poles 
would  have  been  less  anti-Semitic  if  the  Jews  had  not 



claimed  minority  rights  is  unprovable  and  most  probably 
false.  When  has  anti-Semitism  lacked  a  pretext?  In  any 
case,  the  vast  majority  of  the  Jews  did  claim  those  minority 
rights,  and  the  reference  to  the  "national  declarations  of 
some  of  the  Jewish  organizations"  is  a  confused  attempt 
to  put  the  blame  on  a  minority  within  the  Jewish  com- 
munity. But  with  or  without  Article  93,  with  or  without 
"national  declarations,"  the  majority  of  Jews  would  have 
gone  on  living  at  least  for  some  time  as  they  had  lived  for 
centuries:  some  of  them  affecting  a  distinctive  dress,  wear- 
ing beards,  observing  the  Sabbath  and  the  laws  of  kashrut, 
and  studying  the  sacred  books,  still  more  of  them  in  one 
degree  or  another  cultivating  a  tradition  handed  down  by 
many  generations;  in  all  of  which  they  would  have  con- 
tinued to  irritate  Polish  national  feeling.  While  the  report 
recommends  "a  more  aggressive  punitive  policy"  toward 
pogromists,  it  nowhere  suggests  that  something  ought  to  be 
done  about  the  irascibility  of  Polish  nationalist  feeling, 
that  is,  about  Polish  chauvinism.  It  implies,  instead,  that 
it  was  natural  for  the  Poles  to  have  regarded  the  Jewish 
minority  as  a  hateful  obstacle  to  Polish  national  liberation; 
and  of  some  deeper  significance  in  the  phenomenon  of 
anti-Semitism  there  is  of  course  no  hint. 

I  return  to  my  observations  on  Morgenthau's  substitu- 
tion of  "excesses"  for  "pogrom."  The  reader  may  have 
thought  them  finicky  and  malicious;  perhaps  the  following 
will  give  him  a  better  impression.  In  1922  Morgenthau 
wrote  an  article  for  the  April  issue  of  the  The  World's 
Work.  He  tells  there  of  his  meetings  as  head  of  the  Mission 
with  Polish  and  other  notables,  among  them  Pilsudski,  the 
first  Polish  chief  of  state;  he  also  gives  us  some  interesting 
insights  into  the  frame  of  mind  in  which  he  approached 
and  performed  his  assignment.  I  confine  myself  to  a  single 
brief  quotation: 



"Pogrom?"  Pilsudski  had  thundered  when  I  first 
called  on  him  ,  .  .  "There  have  been  no  pogroms  in 
Poland!  Nothing  but  unavoidable  accidents." 

I  asked  the  difference. 

"A  pogrom,"  he  explained,  "is  a  massacre  by  the 
Government,  or  not  prevented  by  it  when  prevention 
is  possible." 

It  was  here,  then,  that  Morgenthau  learned  to  avoid  the 
word  in  his  report,  and  to  think  up  an  ingenious  reason 
for  the  avoidance.  I  answered  the  article  bitterly  in  The 
New  Palestine  and  exposed  what  I  called  "The  Treachery 
of  Henry  Morgenthau."  I  did  not  meet  him  again  and  of 
course  never  heard  from  him. 


I  shall  now  tell  how  I  came  to  revise  my  opinion  of 
Morgenthau  and  to  clear  him  in  my  mind  of  the  charges  of 
villainy  and  treachery.  Many  years  had  passed  and  I  had 
stopped  thinking  about  the  man.  It  was  1947  and  I  was  in 
Palestine,  working  with  Weizmann  on  his  memoirs.  In 
Trial  and  Error  there  is  a  short  and  diverting  chapter, 
"Opera  Bouffe  Intermezzo,"  which  tells  how  President 
Wilson  sent  Morgenthau  to  Europe  in  the  summer  of  1917 
to  try  to  persuade  Turkey,  the  ally  of  Germany,  to  make 
a  separate  peace,  and  how  Weizmann  was  sent,  unofficially, 
by  the  British  Foreign  Office  to  intercept  him  and  "talk 
him  out  of  his  mission."  A  separate  peace  with  Turkey  at 
that  stage  of  the  First  World  War  would  have  meant  a 
pledge  to  preserve  "as  is"  the  rickety,  oppressive,  and 
utterly  corrupt  Turkish  Empire,  leaving  the  Armenian, 
Arab,  and  other  peoples  under  the  misrule  they  had  en- 
dured for  centuries.  This  the  British  government  would 



not  accept,  for  reasons  of  their  own;  the  subject  peoples 
had  better  reasons  for  opposing  such  a  plan.  Weizmann 

The  British  Foreign  Office  did  not  attach  much 
importance  to  the  manoeuvre.  I  did — at  first  .  .  .  The 
French,  it  soon  transpired,  were  taking  the  American 
mission  seriously.  After  all,  here  was  an  ex-Ambassa- 
dor who  had  come  across  the  ocean  with  the  blessings 
of  the  [American]  President,  and  accompanied  by  a 
whole  suite  [which  included,  among  others,  Professor 
Felix  Frankfurter].  Besides,  the  wish  may  have  been 
father  to  the  thought:  the  French  were  prepared  to 
consider  a  separate  peace  with  Turkey  on  the  basis  of 
the  inviolability  of  the  Turkish  Empire.  I,  for  my 
part,  soon  came  to  the  conclusion  that  the  whole 
business  was  a  canard. 

It  needed  only  a  face  to  face  encounter  with  Morgen- 
thau,  which  took  place  in  Gibraltar  early  in  July. 

It  appeared,  continues  Weizmann: 

that  Mr.  Morgenthau  had  had  an  idea.  He  felt  that 
Turkey  was  on  the  point  of  collapse.  It  had  occurred 
to  him  that  perhaps  Taalat  Pasha  might  be  played  off 
against  Enver  Bey,  and  a  peace  move  considered.  I  put 
two  simple  questions  to  Mr.  Morgenthau.  First,  did  he 
think  the  time  had  come  for  the  American  Govern- 
ment to  open  up  negotiations  of  such  a  nature  with 
the  Turkish  authorities;  in  other  words,  did  he  think 
Turkey  realized  sufficiently  that  she  was  beaten,  or 
likely  to  lose  the  war,  and  was,  therefore,  in  a  frame 
of  mind  to  lend  herself  to  negotiations  of  that  nature? 
Second,  assuming  that  the  time  was  ripe  for  such  over- 



tures,  did  Mr.  Morgenthau  have  any  clear  ideas  about 
the  conditions  under  which  the  Turks  would  be  pre- 
pared to  detach  themselves  from  their  masters? 

Colonel  Weyl  [the  French  representative]  was  par- 
ticularly anxious  to  obtain  a  precise  answer  from  Mr. 
Morgenthau.  But  Mr.  Morgenthau  was  unable  to 
furnish  one.  In  fact,  as  the  talk  went  on,  it  became 
embarrassingly  clear  that  he  had  merely  had  a  vague 
notion  that  he  could  utilize  his  connections  in  Turkey 
to  some  end  or  other;  but  on  examining  the  question 
more  closely  he  was  compelled  to  admit  that  he  did 
not  know  the  position  and  was  not  justified  in  saying 
that  the  time  had  arrived  for  negotiations.  In  short,  he 
seemed  not  to  have  given  the  matter  sufficiently  seri- 
ous consideration  .  .  .  When  I  asked  Frankfurter,  in- 
formally, what  he  was  doing  on  this  odd  mission,  he 
answered  that  he  came  along  to  keep  an  eye  on  things! 

It  was  no  job  at  all  to  persuade  Mr.  Morgenthau  to 
drop  the  project.  He  simply  persuaded  himself  .  .  .  We 
talked  in  this  vacuum  for  two  whole  days.  It  was  mid- 
summer and  very  hot.  We  had  been  given  one  of  the 
casements  in  the  Rock  for  our  sessions,  and  the  win- 
dows were  kept  open.  As  Mr.  Morgenthau  did  not 
speak  French,  and  Colonel  Weyl  did  not  speak  Eng- 
lish, we  had  to  fall  back  on  German.  And  the  Tom- 
mies on  guard  marched  up  and  down  outside,  no 
doubt  convinced  that  we  were  a  pack  of  spies  who  had 
been  lured  into  a  trap,  to  be  court-martialed  the  next 
morning  and  shot  out  of  hand.  I  must  confess  that  I 
did  not  find  it  easy  to  make  an  intelligible  report  to 
Sir  Ronald  Graham  [of  the  British  Foreign  Office]. 

Dr.  Weizmann  enjoyed  redictating  this  chapter  from  an 
earlier  draft  of  his  own,  and  I  enjoyed  taking  it  down;  but 



I  thought  he  was  unfair.  I  had  long  since  lost  my  awe  of 
ambassadors  and  ex-ambassadors;  all  the  same,  here  was  a 
man  who,  after  having  done  a  stint  as  ambassador,  had 
been  entrusted  by  President  Wilson  with  two  important 
missions.  I  told  Weizmann  of  my  experience  with  Morgen- 
thau  in  Poland;  he  was  a  bad  man,  I  said,  a  conscienceless 
and  irresponsible  careerist;  but  surely  he  couldn't  have 
been  the  nincompoop  depicted  by  Weizmann.  Weizmann 
smiled  and  quoted  a  Yiddish  proverb:  "If  you  have  money, 
you're  good-looking  and  clever  and  a  good  singer  as  well." 
But  knowing  that  Weizmann  could  be  cruelly  satirical,  I 
still  objected.  Not  that  I  minded  the  unfairness  to  Morgen- 
thau;  I  only  wanted  a  more  plausible  picture  of  the  man. 
I  did  not  withdraw  my  objections  until  1961,  when  Justice 
Frankfurter  issued  his  fascinating  volume  of  reminiscences. 
His  version  of  the  Gibraltar  episode  is  even  more  diverting 
— and  more  devastating — than  Weizmann's. 

"I  suppose,"  he  begins,  "that  there  never  was  a  more 
fantastic  mission  on  which  I  found  myself  sent  than  the 
so-called  Morgenthau  mission  in  June  and  July,  1917," 
and  goes  on  to  tell  how  Morgenthau,  having  been  re- 
warded for  his  contributions  to  the  Wilson  campaign  of 
1913  by  the  ambassadorship  to  Turkey,  and  finding  him- 
self out  of  a  job  when  America  declared  war  on  the  Central 
Powers,  went  about  in  Washington  "bothering  everybody 
with  a  great  thought  he  had  of  detaching  Turkey  from 
Germany  and  Austria." 

The  idea,  thought  Professor  Frankfurter  (as  he  then 
was),  did  not  appear,  on  the  surface,  altogether  hare- 
brained. "There  was  only  the  little  problem  of  how  it  was 
to  be  implemented." 

Turkey  is  a  far  land,  and  Morgenthau  talked  glibly 
of  Mustapha  Kemal  and  about  people  who  seemed 



awfully  remote  even  to  those  in  power.  Finally,  after 
some  diplomatic  negotiations,  Wilson  got  the  agree- 
ment of  Lloyd  George  and  the  French  Prime  Min- 
ister, M.  Ribot,  a  long-whiskered  gentleman  who 
didn't  amount  to  much,  to  join  in  the  American- 
Anglo-French  Commission  to  look  into  and  bring 
about,  if  possible,  the  detachment  of  Turkey  from  the 
Central  Powers. 

I  was  then  assistant  to  the  Secretary  of  War,  and 
Baker  broached  the  subject  of  my  going  along  with 
Ambassador  Morgenthau.  I  didn't  know  anything 
about  him  except  in  the  way  in  which  we're  all  in- 
fluenced by  what  we  hear  and  read.  I  assumed  he  was 
a  considerable  personage  [I  read  this  with  relief.  M.S.] 
but  something  in  me  resisted  Baker's  suggestion.  I 
didn't  want  to  go  with  Mr.  Morgenthau.  I  finally  met 
him  and  was  puzzled  by  him.  He  wasn't  my  kind  of 
person,  in  the  sense  that  his  talk  was  inconsequential 
and  not  coherent,  but  loose  and  big  and  rhetorical. 
You  couldn't  get  hold  of  anything,  but  I  assumed  that 
was  just  the  froth  of  the  man.  I  didn't  realize  that  the 
froth  was  the  man. 

But  Professor  Frankfurter  got  his  orders  from  Wilson 
and  went,  "the  theory  being  that  they  needed  an  inter- 
national lawyer  ...  I  wasn't  an  international  lawyer,  knew 
damn  little  about  international  law.  I  knew  where  Turkey 
was  on  the  map  and  not  much  more,  but  as  is  the  way  with 
lawyers  I  began  to  study  up  the  case  .  .  .  ,"  and  by  the  time 
the  party  was  on  board,  "I  knew  more  about  Turkey  than 
Morgenthau  had  acquired  in  all  his  years  there  because  my 
knowledge  was  critical  and  his  was  general,  just  hot-air 
impressions."  After  a  few  days  at  sea  Frankfurter  also  knew 
much  more  about  Morgenthau  than  Morgenthau  did. 



I  soon  realized  that  his  ego  was  enormous,  insati- 
able .  .  .  After  one  or  two  sessions  I  couldn't  bear  it. 
I  forget  how  many  days  we  were  on  the  water — ten, 
I  think — and  I  became  inaccessible  thereafter.  At 
lunch  he'd  say:  "Where  were  you?"  "I  was  on  the 
upper  deck,  waiting  for  you,"  or  the  lower,  or  what- 
ever it  was.  I  really  played  the  game  of  hide  and  seek 
because  I  soon  saw  that  the  man  hadn't  a  brain  in  his 
head  .  .  .  What  gave  him  what  he  had?  What  did  he 
have?  Money.  He  was  a  great  dealer  in  New  York  real 
estate  .  .  .  Oh,  it  was  such  a  boring  thing. 

For  the  details  of  the  harrowing  experience  the  reader 
must  go  to  Justice  Frankfurter's  own  record.  I  add  only 
two  more  paragraphs — short  ones.  After  Morgenthau  had, 
as  Weizmann  puts  it,  talked  himself  out  of  his  mission,  he 
went  to  France  to  report  to  General  Pershing.  "Mr.  Mor- 
genthau," says  Justice  Frankfurter  with  a  deep  sigh,  "asked 
me  to  go  along,  so  I  went.  But  the  stuff  was  so  puerile!  I 
remember  sitting  in  Pershing's  room  and  sliding  down  in 
my  chair  with  the  thought  that  I  could  make  myself  even 
less  conspicuous  than  my  small  size  inevitably  makes  me, 
so  that  Pershing  might  not  remember  that  I  was  even 

Justice  Frankfurter  closes  the  episode  with:  "I  con- 
cluded that  simply  because  you  can  make  money  in  New 
York  real  estate  doesn't  mean  that  you  have  an  understand- 
ing of  the  relationship  of  people,  or  nations,  or  know  the 
history  of  forces  that  made  the  past  and  will  therefore 
determine  the  future." 

I  have  absolved  Mr.  Morgenthau  of  villainy  and  treach- 
ery and  base  political  motives  in  the  affair  of  Polish 
pogroms.  I  have  come  to  the  conclusion  that  he  just  hadn't 
the  foggiest  notion  what  it  was  all  about,  his  equipment 




for  this  mission  being  of  the  same  order  as  his  equipment 
for  his  peace-with-Turkey  mission.  Those  driveling  ad- 
dresses of  his  to  the  Jewish  delegations — he  meant  them, 
in  so  far  as  they  could  be  said  to  have  meaning.  And  he 
really  thought  he  was  serving  the  best  interests  of  Polish 
Jewry,  as  well  as  of  Poland  and  America  and  civilization 

Morgenthau  was,  let  it  be  noted,  a  representative  figure 
— the  type  of  Jew  who  believes  that,  on  the  whole,  anti- 
Semitism  is  caused  by  the  behavior  of  Jews.  Not,  the  type 
adds  hastily,  that  anti-Semitism  is  ever  justifiable;  the  ac- 
cusations made  by  anti-Semites — that  the  Jews  are  a  bad 
lot,  that  they  have  far  more  than  their  permissible  pro- 
portion of  sharpers,  arsonists,  white-slave  traffickers,  draft- 
dodgers  and  traitors,  that  Jewish  bankers  are  a  sinister 
world  power — are  obviously  based  on  a  ridiculous  prej- 
udice. But — so  runs  the  argument — why  feed  that  prejudice 
by  addiction  to  Hebrew  or  Yiddish,  and,  worst  of  all,  a 
claim  to  peoplehood? 

This  trivialization  of  a  deep-rooted  folkloristic  malady 
in  the  body  of  Western  civilization  is  itself  a  result  of  anti- 
Semitism.  It  also  turns  into  a  mockery  the  gigantic  tragedy 
of  Jewish  suffering.  The  Jews,  it  would  seem,  have  suffered 
massacre  and  exile  not  because  of  their  will  to  preserve, 
however  imperfectly,  a  meaningful  life-view,  but  because 
of  uncalled  for,  irritating  idiosyncracies;  the  six  million 
that  were  done  to  death  in  Europe  are  a  warning  against 
the  folly  of  tactlessness. 

My  mind  runs  over  the  recent  history  of  European 
Jewry.  I  look  back  at  the  pogroms  in  Poland  which  broke 
out  on  the  day  the  First  World  War  ended.  We  did  not 
know  that  they  were  a  prelude  to  the  ghastliest  episode  in 
the  history  of  the  Jewish  people;  but  we  did  know  that  this 
was  an  evil  beginning  for  the  "new  era."  We — I  am  speak- 


ing  of  Jews  who  shared  my  outlook — ^were  embittered  not 
only  by  the  pogroms  themselves,  but  by  the  anxiety  of  the 
world  to  ignore  them.  In  America  the  first  six  Polish 
pogroms  were  reported  so  obscurely  as  to  make  no  impres- 
sion. It  was  only  after  an  immense  Jewish  protest  demon- 
stration had  been  staged  in  New  York  that  the  American 
public  was  roused.  The  force  of  the  demonstration,  wrote 
The  Maccabean,  the  organ  of  the  American  Zionists,  "can 
be  gauged  by  this  one  fact:  it  has  succeeded  in  breaking 
through  the  wall  of  silence  which  has  been  built  round  the 
Polish  atrocities  by  the  American  press.  That  wall,  of 
course,  was  erected  in  pursuance  of  the  policy  of  pamper- 
ing Poland.  Poland  was  to  be  set  up  as  the  barrier  against 

Germany,  too,  was  to  be  the  barrier  against  Bolshevism 
less  than  a  generation  later;  therefore,  German  "excesses" 
against  the  Jews  had  to  be  handled  with  the  greatest 
delicacy.  Morgenthau  tells  us  in  his  World's  Work  article 
that  Pilsudski  was  infuriated  by  the  publicity  which  was 
finally  given  to  the  pogroms.  "Excesses?  The  exaggeration 
of  the  foreign  press  concerning  what  had  happened  to  a 
trivial  number  of  Jews  had  been  monstrous."  Jews  ought 
not  to  scream  when  they  are  being  murdered  and  robbed; 
it  upsets  important  negotiations  for  the  preservation  of 
world  peace  and  world  freedom.  The  word  the  Germans 
were  to  use  was  Greuelpropaganda — atrocity  propaganda; 
and  in  America  and  England  anyone  who  thought  that 
something  ought  to  be  done  about  the  Nuremberg  laws 
was  liable  to  be  called  a  warmonger.  Pilsudski,  like  Rus- 
sia's rulers  before  him  and  Germany's  later,  was  outraged 
by  foreign  intervention  in  his  country's  internal  affairs. 
What  Poland  or  Russia  or  Germany  did  to  her  Jews  was 
her  business  and  nobody  else's.  I  quote  again  from  Morgen- 
thau's  article  in  The  World's  Work:  "  'Why  not  trust  to 



Poland's  honor?'  shouted  Pilsudski.  'Don't  plead  that  the 
article's  concessions  [referring  to  Article  93  of  the  Ver- 
sailles Treaty  signed  by  Poland]  are  few  in  number  or 
negative  in  character.  Let  them  be  as  small  or  as  negative 
as  you  please,  that  article  creates  an  authority,  a  power, 
to  which  to  appeal  outside  the  laws  of  this  country.  Every 
faction  in  Poland  was  agreed  on  doing  justice  to  the  Jews, 
and  yet  the  Peace  Conference,  at  the  instance  of  America, 
insults  us  by  telling  us  that  we  must  do  justice.'  " 

Pilsudski  was  worried  by  the  harm  Morgenthau's  report 
might  do  Poland.  "  'These  little  mishaps,'  he  said,  'were 
all  over,  and  now  you  come  here  to  stir  the  whole  thing 
up  again  and  probably  make  a  report  that  may  still  further 
hurt  our  credit  abroad.'  "  Whatever  harm  Poland's  reputa- 
tion suffered  in  connection  with  the  pogroms  was  caused, 
not  by  the  Morgenthau  report,  but  by  the  demonstrations 
and  the  agitation  which  led  to  the  appointment  of  the 
Commission.  They  also  led  to  a  change  in  the  technique 
of  Polish  anti-Semitism.  Hot  pogroms  were  too  spectacu- 
lar; the  cold  pogrom  of  boycott  and  economic  strangu- 
lation was  more  effective  and  did  not  lend  itself  to 
dramatization.  After  1919,  hot  pogroms  were  discouraged 
in  Poland;  the  cold  pogrom  was  conducted  with  mounting 
intensity  until  the  day  the  country  was  overrun  by  the 
Nazis  from  one  side  and  the  Communists  from  the  other. 




^  s 

$  Hieroselyma  Est  Perdita  t 

I  I 

S  ®  I 


OR  a  number  of  years  I  kept,  irregularly,  records  of 
my  dreams,  setting  them  down  the  morning  after  their 
occurrence.  I  still  reread  them  occasionally  and  I  have 
noticed  how,  over  the  years,  some  of  them  have  died  to 
my  memory,  so  that  I  have  to  take  my  own  word  for  it 
that  I  dreamed  them,  while  others  have  remained  alive.  I 
am  unable  to  establish  any  selective  principle.  It  is  not 
Time.  Some  dreams  dated  as  recently  as  1951,  1954,  and 
1956  might  have  been  dreamed  and  recorded  by  a  stranger 
for  all  their  evocative  effect  on  me  now;  others,  going  back 
to  1941,  are  almost  as  fresh  as  if  I  had  just  and  incom- 
pletely awakened  from  them.  Nor  is  the  selection  based 
on  the  degree  of  vividness  with  which  I  remembered  the 
dream  on  awakening.  Thus  one  dream,  dated  January  5-6, 
1954,  has  the  footnote:  "Deeply  affected,"  but  going  over 
the  account,  I  cannot  connect  myself  with  a  single  detail; 
while  another,  dated  April  21-22,  1941,  with  the  notation 
"Mildly  affected,"  is  in  me  from  beginning  to  end. 

Thus  it  is  also  with  individual  experiences  when  I  read 
my  notes  and  diaries  and  published  articles  of  forty  years 
ago  and  more.  In  1919  I  wrote:  "Of  all  those  who  suffered 
at  the  hands  of  the  Poles  I  got  to  know  best  Madame 


Philipovka,  whose  husband  and  sixteen-year-old  son  were 
both  murdered  on  the  same  day,  their  bodies  being  thrown 
with  those  of  six  other  Jews  into  a  common  grave  on  the 
road  to  Lipuwka,  a  suburb  of  Vilna.  She  came  to  see  me 
several  times  in  the  hotel  in  connection  with  her  efforts 
to  obtain  a  pass  to  Germany.  Sometimes  she  came  with  her 
daughter,  her  one  surviving  child,  and  sometimes  with  a 
niece,  and  gradually  she  told  me  of  her  son  and  of  the 
hopes  she  had  had  for  him.  Once  she  heard  me  exchange  a 
few  words  in  Hebrew  with  her  niece,  and  on  the  next  day 
she  brought  me  typed  copies  of  two  Hebrew  poems  her 
son  had  written  at  the  age  of  thirteen,  and  again,  on  the 
following  visit,  a  crude  twenty-four-page  Hebrew  brochure, 
hectographed,  which  had  been  got  up  by  young  comrades 
of  her  son  in  his  memory,  containing  some  of  his  own 
poems  and  fables." 

From  further  notes  I  gather  that  I  was  more  deeply 
shaken  by  this  tragedy  than  by  any  other  that  came  before 
the  Commission,  and  that  Mme  Philipovka  haunted  me  for 
some  time  after  her  visits:  "I  can't  get  her  out  of  my 
mind!"  But  it  is  in  vain  that  I  search  my  living  memory 
for  any  trace  of  her.  Had  I  been  asked  six  months  ago — 
that  is,  before  I  began  to  go  through  these  old  notes  and 
articles — whether  I  had  once  known  or  even  heard  of  a 
Mme  Philipovka,  I  would  have  answered:  "I  don't  think 
so."  If  I  had  been  asked:  "Didn't  you  have  several  con- 
versations with  her  in  Vilna,  and  didn't  you  carry  away 
what  you  called  an  'unforgettable'  impression?"  I  would 
have  answered:  "Certainly  not."  And  as  far  as  my  inner 
response  is  concerned,  the  answer  is  the  same  now  that  the 
notes  lie  in  front  of  me.  On  the  other  hand,  I  do  remem- 
ber, down  to  the  details  of  face  and  voice  and  dress,  a 
young  woman  barely  out  of  her  teens  whose  husband  had 
been  killed  and  who  appeared  before  us  only  once.  It 



seems  to  me  that  if  I  were  shown  her  photograph,  taken  at 
that  time,  I  would  recognize  her  instantly.  Similarly,  all 
erased  from  the  tablets  of  my  mind  is  Mme  Sherman,  who, 
I  read  in  my  notes,  "cried  before  us  like  a  child"  as  she 
told  us  how  she  and  her  friend  Weiter  were  dragged  into 
the  street  and  shot  down  like  dogs,  he  fatally;  but  I  re- 
member clearly  a  baffled  and  outraged  little  man  to  whom 
I  had  to  explain  that  he  could  not  claim  from  the  Amer- 
ican Pogrom  Commission  compensation  for  his  looted  shop. 
I  remember  him  even  though  he  is  not  mentioned  in  my 

I  cannot  account  for  these  mysterious  individual  caprices 
of  my  memory,  but  I  can  readily  see  why  the  two  months 
I  spent  with  the  Pogrom  Commission  should  have  become 
a  permanent  influence  in  my  life.  I  was  a  Zionist  before  I 
met  Weizmann  and  would  have  remained  one  without 
him;  I  had  involved  myself  in  Jewishness,  in  the  fate  of 
the  Jewish  people,  in  Yiddish  and  in  Yiddish  literature, 
before  my  visit  to  Poland,  and  the  involvement  would  have 
been  lifelong  without  it;  but  as  Weizmann  deepened  my 
response  to  the  Zionist  idea,  so  that  strange,  fortuitous, 
direct  contact  with  East  European  Jewry,  attended  as  it 
was  by  its  peculiar  circumstances,  added  to  my  involve- 
ment a  new  element  of  sensitivity. 

Outside  of  books,  my  knowledge  of  the  Jewish  world 
had  been  drawn  from  our  Manchester  ghetto  and  from 
American — chiefly  New  York — Jewry.  Certainly  New 
York's  East  Side  Jewry  was  Jewishly  vital,  but  its  vitality 
was  not  rooted  as  it  were  in  the  landscape,  one  could  not 
yet  speak  significantly  of  its  local  history,  whereas  East 
European  Jewry  had  a  majestic  historicity,  centuries  and 
centuries  of  it.  From  Eastern  Europe  the  lines  ran  back  to 
older  sites  and  through  them  to  long-lost,  ever-mourned 
Judea;   but   East   European  Jewry  was   a  great  historic 



phenomenon  in  its  own  right,  a  substantial  segment  of  the 
immense  total  trajectory  of  Jewish  history. 

Vilna  is  dominant  in  my  active  memory  of  Poland, 
though  I  spent  more  time  in  Warsaw,  with  its  larger  Jew- 
ish community.  I  was  predisposed  to  that  partiality,  know- 
ing already  that  Vilna  was  the  glory  of  East  European 
Jewry — Vilna,  the  Jerusalem  of  Lithuania,  as  they  called 
it,  for  Vilna  was  historically  Lithuanian,  not  Polish,  and 
the  Jews  were  there  before  the  Poles.  As  it  was  not  the 
largest,  so  it  was  not,  by  far,  the  oldest  East  European 
Jewish  community,  but  Vilna  rose  to  unchallenged  emi- 
nence as  an  intellectual  and  spiritual  center  and  main- 
tained that  eminence  down  to  the  end. 

Names  that  mean  little  to  Westernized  Jews  and  nothing 
at  all  to  non-Jews,  but  were  portents  in  the  Jewish  world 
of  yesterday,  are  linked  with  Vilna's  history.  The  most 
illustrious  of  these  names  is  Elijah  Kremer,  who  is  never 
mentioned  by  his  family  name,  for  which  the  word  Gaon 
has  been  substituted,  meaning  Excellency,  or  Genius. 
That  title  once  belonged  to  the  heads  of  certain  academies 
in  Babylonia;  it  fell  into  disuse  with  their  fall,  and  was 
revived  for  bestowal  on  Elijah  of  Vilna.  His,  in  the  view 
of  many,  was  the  greatest  and  widest-ranging  Jewish  in- 
tellect of  the  Exile,  with  the  exception  of  Maimonides.  His 
learning  was  equalled  by  his  piety,  and  both  by  his  saintli- 
ness.  Except  for  some  travels  in  his  early  manhood,  he 
never  left  his  native  city,  the  fame  of  which  he  began  to 
enhance  in  his  boyhood.  He  was  barely  out  of  his  teens,  a 
Jewish  Admirable  Crichton  or  Pico  Delia  Mirandola,  when 
scholars  twice  and  thrice  his  age  were  seeking  his  opinion 
on  knotty  problems  of  the  Law;  and  the  universal  rever- 
ence accorded  him  was  the  more  remarkable  in  that  he 
was  an  innovator,  and  in  a  sense  a  rebel.  He  rejected  the 
hair-splitting  and  casuist  spirit  still  dominant  among  the 


Talmudists  of  the  eighteenth  century  and  moved  from 
the  medieval  into  the  modern  age,  applying  philological 
and  rational  methods  to  his  studies  of  Talmudic  and  pre- 
Talmudic  literature.  He  was  a  grammarian  and  a  mathe- 
matician, and,  in  contrast  to  his  contemporaries,  held  that 
a  knowledge  of  science  was  a  necessary  part  of  a  Jewish 
education.  He  left  behind  him  treatises  on  trigonometry, 
algebra  and  astronomy,  as  well  as  voluminous  commen- 
taries on  the  sacred  books.  He  lived  a  modest  and  retiring 
life,  refusing  honors  and  high  official  posts  and  contenting 
himself  with  lessons  to  a  chosen  group  of  pupils.  His 
saintliness  and  unostentatious  asceticism  were  a  family 
tradition.  Of  his  grandfather,  the  scholar  Moses  Kremer, 
it  is  told  that  he  kept  his  grocery  store  open  only  for  as 
many  days  as  were  needed  to  provide  a  livelihood  for  the 
current  week;  and  if  on  Sunday  he  had  earned  enough,  he 
closed  the  store  till  the  following  Sunday,  saying:  "The 
other  shopkeepers,  too,  have  to  make  a  living." 

The  place  where  Elijah  Gaon  studied  and  taught  was  a 
little  klaus  (close)  or  chapel  in  the  Great  Synagogue,  and 
the  Vilna  Gaon's  Klaus  became  one  of  the  sanctuaries  of 
world  Jewry.  I  went  there  one  evening  and  looked  for  a 
long  time  at  the  plaque  which  commemorates  the  man 
"who  sat  here  for  forty  years  and  spread  wisdom  till  his 
name  became  a  glory  in  the  world." 

In  all  his  long  and  tranquil  life,  the  Vilna  Gaon  was  in- 
volved in  only  one  public  controversy,  but  that  a  violent 
and  memorable  one.  He  was  a  misnaggid,  that  is,  an  oppo- 
nent of  Chassidism,  that  religious  revolt  of  the  humble 
and  unlearned  against  the  spiritual  tyranny  of  the  scholas- 
tics. The  founder  of  Chassidism,  Israel,  the  Baal  Shem  Tov, 
or  Master  of  the  Good  Name,  was  born  in  1700,  twenty 
years  before  Elijah  Gaon,  and  died  in  1757.  The  birthplace 
of  the  movement  was  Podolia,  and  its  early  and  rapid 



successes  were  among  the  Jews  of  southern  Russia.  It  ^s^as 
not  till  some  twenty  years  after  the  death  of  its  founder 
that  Chassidism  began  to  make  some  headway  in  Lithu- 
ania. By  then,  however,  the  movement  had  undergone 
much  change.  Here  and  there  the  original  simplicity  and 
mysticism  remained,  elsewhere  there  had  crept  in  the 
feature  called  Tzaddikism,  the  superstitious  exaltation  of 
the  Chassidic  rebhes,  some  of  whom  lived  in  regal  splendor 
on  the  offerings  of  their  devotees.  There  had  also  devel- 
oped an  intellectual  Chassidism,  the  first  and  greatest 
exponent  of  which  was  Shnaiur  Zalman  of  Liadi,  a  man  as 
saintly  if  not  as  learned  as  the  Gaon  himself.  Whether  it 
was  this  brand  of  Chassidism  or  another  that  made  the 
first  breach  in  Vilna  itself,  we  do  not  know,  but  certain  it 
is  that  by  the  seventies  of  the  eighteenth  century  little 
secret  conventicles  of  Chassidism  existed  in  Vilna.  Equally 
certain  is  it  that  the  struggle  between  Misnagdim  and 
Chassidim  was  long  and  vicious.  The  Chassidim  were  for- 
mally excommunicated  from  the  body  of  Israel  by  the 
Misnagdic  rabbis.  Their  shops  were  declared  taboo;  their 
butcher's  meat,  though  prepared  with  pimctilious  atten- 
tion to  the  Jewish  dietary  laws,  was  declared  treij,  unclean, 
imfit  for  consumption  by  Jews;  marriage  with  their  sons 
and  daus^hters  was  declared  as  heretical  as  marriasfe  with 
the  sons  and  daughters  of  gentiles. 

It  is  hard  to  understand  how  a  gentle  spirit  like  the 
Vilna  Gaon  lent  his  authority  to  such  rancors.  One  suspects 
that  he  let  himself  be  carried  away  by  wild  reports,  for, 
having  withdrawn  into  his  ivory  tower  of  study,  medita- 
tion, and  prayer,  he  never  ventured  forth  to  investigate  for 
himself.  Nor  would  he  avail  himself  of  the  one  opportunity 
that  was  offered  him  to  learn  the  truth  at  first  hand  and 
from  the  highest  source,  namely  Shnaiur  Zalman,  the 
Rebbe  of  Liadi,  who  humbled  himself  and  sought  an  audi- 


ence  with  Elijah  Gaon.  He  came  as  a  suppliant  to  the  klaus 
and  was  refused  admittance;  he  pleaded  through  the 
closed  door  and  the  man  inside  remained  deaf.  Was  the 
Gaon  afraid  that  he  might  have  to  recant?  Was  he  by  this 
time,  in  his  fifties,  too  weary  to  undertake  a  struggle  with 
his  own  followers?  Was  it  enough  for  him  that  he  had  been 
an  innovator  in  Jewish  studies?  Whatever  the  case,  that 
dramatic  picture  became  part  of  the  history  of  Vilna  Jewry, 
remembered  long  after  the  two  sects  had  become  more  or 
less  reconciled,  each  recognizing  in  the  other  a  fruitful 
branch  of  the  tree  of  Israel. 

Another  towering  religious  figure  associated  with  Vilna 
is  Israel  Salanter,  of  the  middle  and  late  nineteenth  cen- 
tury, who  founded  the  Musarist  or  Moralist  school.  He  was 
not  a  native  of  Vilna  but  taught  there  for  a  time  and  left 
his  mark  on  the  life  of  the  city,  as,  indeed,  on  much  of 
East  European  Jewish  life.  He  was,  perhaps  indirectly,  a 
conciliating  element  between  Misnagdim  and  Chassidim. 
He  deflected  attention  from  the  barren  acrimony  of  the 
quarrel  by  his  emphasis  on  the  suppression  of  egotism  in 
all  the  subtle  forms  it  takes  in  the  self-deceiving  human 
being.  For  Israel  Salanter,  the  Law  was  an  instrument  for 
the  purification  of  man  in  his  relations  with  his  fellow- 
men.  Though  he  was  a  distinguished  scholar,  he  had  no 
respect  for  the  man  of  learning  who  held  that  his  knowl- 
edge of  the  Law  set  him  apart  in  merit;  nor  did  he  respect 
the  blind  and  rigid  observance  of  the  letter  of  the  Law.  In 
his  eyes  the  purpose  of  the  Law  was  to  enable  man  to  live 
a  life  of  goodness  and  selflessness;  therefore,  the  Law  meant 
life  before  it  meant  anything  else,  and  where  it  came  in 
conflict  with  the  principle  of  life  it  was  self-correcting. 

He  illustrated  this  once  in  a  startling  manner. 

It  was  the  Day  of  Atonement,  that  awesome  point  in  the 
cycle  of  the  Jewish  calendar,  the  only  day  of  fasting  and 



self-affliction  which  can  override  the  tranquillity  and  hap- 
piness of  the  Sabbath.  Even  the  Black  Fast  of  the  ninth  of 
Ab,  the  reminder  of  the  two  Destructions  of  the  Temple, 
bows  before  the  Sabbath,  which  must  be  enjoyed  to  the  full 
like  any  other  Sabbath  even  if  it  falls  on  that  maleficent 
date;  the  fasting  and  the  lamentation  are  deferred  to  the 
next  day.  Now,  that  particular  Day  of  Atonement  fell  at  a 
time  when  cholera  was  raging  in  the  city,  and  preaching 
to  the  congregation,  Israel  Salanter  pressed  the  point  that 
the  law  was  given  to  man  to  live  by;  and  if  by  reason  of 
sickness  a  man  might  be  endangering  his  life  in  observing 
the  fast,  the  spirit  of  the  Law  commanded  him  to  break  the 
letter  of  the  Law.  To  drive  home  this  point  the  Rabbi,  him- 
self not  infected  by  the  pestilence,  drew  from  his  pocket  a 
slice  of  bread,  held  it  up,  pronounced  the  benediction: 
"Blessed  art  Thou,  O  Lord  our  God,  King  of  the  universe, 
who  bringest  forth  bread  from  the  earth,"  and  ate.  The  wor- 
shippers beheld  with  stupefaction  this  holy  act  of  sacrilege, 
unthinkable  save  in  a  saint  of  the  first  order;  and  the  les- 
son was  never  forgotten. 

These  personalities  and  stories  and  many  more  for  which 
I  have  not  the  room  here  were  already  familiar  to  me  when 
I  visited  Vilna.  But  the  city  itself  was  a  legend  to  me.  I 
saw  it  mostly  by  night,  driving  through  it  from  end  to  end, 
the  droshky  clattering  and  bumping  along  under  the 
moonlit  and  cloud-flecked  sky.  Sometimes  I  got  out  on  my 
crutches  (I  had  broken  a  scaphoid  in  a  street  accident  in 
Paris)  and,  if  the  hour  was  not  too  late,  hobbled  with  the 
assistance  of  my  guide  into  courtyards  and  buildings.  They 
were  crammed  with  Jewish  history;  the  obstinacy  of  the 
Jewish  will-to-be  was  chiseled  into  their  stones.  The 
scholars  and  saints  were  only  the  outstanding  representa- 
tives of  a  people's  persistence.  The  Vilna  Gaon's  klaus, 
famous  above  all  others,  was  only  one  of  a  hundred  of  its 



kind.  For  there  were  the  klauses  of  the  trades  and  pro- 
fessions, the  klauses  of  the  bookbinders,  the  draymen,  the 
tinsmiths,  the  glaziers,  the  bakers  (two  such  klauses,  one  for 
the  white-bread  specialists,  the  other  for  the  humbler 
black-bread  men),  the  tailors  (similarly  duplicate,  accord- 
ing to  grade),  the  butchers,  the  musicians,  the  coopers,  the 
carpenters,  the  chimney  sweeps,  the  cobblers,  the  grave- 
diggers,  and  the  rest. 

Every  klaus  had  its  teacher  or  its  Rabbi,  specializing  in 
a  branch  of  study,  and  usually  its  free-loan  association  and 
its  charity  fund.  It  had  its  prushim,  men  who  had  with- 
drawn from  the  world  and  lived  out  their  last  years  in  the 
klaus,  studying,  eating  crusts,  and  sleeping  on  the  wooden 
benches.  To  each  klaus,  but  of  course  particularly  to  that 
of  the  Vilna  Gaon,  men  came  with  their  intellectual  or 
ritualistic  problems,  and  sorrowing  women  with  their  sup- 
plications for  husband  and  children.  As  the  Vilna  Gaon's 
was  the  klaus,  so  the  Great  Synagogue  was  the  synagogue, 
and  when  the  Synagogue  Courtyard  was  mentioned  with- 
out specification,  it  could  only  mean  the  Courtyard  of  the 
Great  Synagogue.  This,  with  the  houses  clustering  about 
it,  was  the  ghetto  of  ghettos,  the  heart  of  Vilna  Jewry,  the 
stronghold  within  the  stronghold  of  tradition. 

But  as  Vilna  led  in  tradition,  so  it  also  led  in  revolt 
against  tradition,  and  its  internecine  struggles  were  a 
fiery  distillation  of  the  struggles  within  the  Jewish  people 
at  large.  It  was  in  Vilna  that  the  secular  Jewish  movements 
found  their  highest  expression.  The  Bund,  anti-religious, 
and  revolutionary  within  the  framework  of  the  general 
Russian  revolutionary  movement,  was  founded  there  in  the 
same  year,  1897,  ^hat  the  first  Zionist  Congress  was  held  in 
Basle.  The  Bund  was  of  course  anti-Zionist,  rabidly,  con- 
tempuously,  unremittingly,  but  while  one  section  of  it 
stood  for  the  total  liquidation  of  the  Jewish  people  by 



assimilation  into  the  surrounding  peoples,  another  part 
stood  for  Jewish  survival  as  a  Yiddish-speaking  national 
minority.  Part  of  the  Bund  became,  after  the  revolution, 
the  Yevsektzia,  the  Jewish  section  of  the  Communist 
Party,  which  liquidated  a  large  number  of  Jews  and  in 
turn  was  liquidated  by  Stalin.  It  was  in  Vilna  that  Shmarya 
Levin  [my  Shmarya)  preached  during  his  rabbinical  years, 
drawing  immense  audiences.  (I  met,  in  1919,  those  who 
remembered  with  awe  his  fiery  orations  and  his  exhorta- 
tions to  the  revivial  of  Hebrew  as  a  spoken  language.) 
But  it  was  also  in  Vilna  that  the  Yiddishist  anti-Zionist 
movement  was  at  its  strongest.  Of  Vilna  Sholem  Asch 
wrote,  as  late  as  1939:  "It  takes  the  first  place  in  the  recon- 
struction of  the  Jewish  people.  Vilna  is  the  center  of  the 
Yiddish  word.  It  is  here  that  the  new  folk  school  was  born, 
where  the  Jewish  child  is  given  a  modern,  all-human  up- 
bringing in  Yiddish.  Vilna  has  become  the  Yiddish  Jeru- 

One  stands  in  astonishment  before  the  spectacle  of  a 
community  numbering  between  seventy  and  eighty  thou- 
sand souls  capable  of  presenting  such  a  turbulence  of  ideas 
and  ideals.  It  calls  to  mind  Renaissance  Florence  or  Peri- 
clean  Athens;  it  calls  them  to  mind  also  by  way  of  contrast. 
The  worship  of  physical  beauty,  the  delight  in  the  human 
body  which  were  part  of  the  classical  paganism  of  Athens 
and  the  neo-paganism  of  Florence  were  unknown  to  Vilna. 
Its  vitality  was  exclusively  intellectual  and  moral,  and 
therein  it  was  true  to  the  charge  laid  upon  the  Jewish 
spirit  from  of  old. 

Vilna  Jewry  and  Polish  Jewry  no  longer  exist;  they  were 
systematically  obliterated  by  Nazi  Germany;  and  what  is 
left  of  East  European  Jewry  as  a  whole  is  being  ground 
into  enforced  assimilation  by  the  Communists.  There  are 
those  who  hope  that  some  day  a  change  will  come  about 



in  the  Communist  concept  of  freedom,  but  East  European 
Jewry  as  a  civilization  is  done  for;  its  Jerusalem  lies  in 
ashes,  and  unlike  the  Jerusalem  through  the  ruins  of  which 
the  Emperor  Hadrian  drew  the  plough,  it  will  not  burgeon 
again  with  a  Jewish  life. 

There  will  be  no  more  Vilna  Gaons,  no  more  Masters  of 
the  Good  Name,  no  more  Israel  Salanters;  no  more  Sholom 
Aleichems  and  Mendelles  and  Yal  Peretzes  and  Bialiks  and 
Achad  Ha-ams  and  Weizmanns  and  Shmarya  Levins.  The 
city  communities  and  the  Shtetlach  will  never  be  re- 
created. There  is  a  distinction  in  ghastliness  between  the 
fates  of  German-Austrian  Jewry  and  East  European  Jewry. 
With  the  former,  the  Nazis  destroyed  a  high  concentrate 
of  genius  which  was  placed  directly  at  the  service  of  the 
world;  there  will  be  no  more  Einsteins  and  Freuds  and 
Ehrlichs  and  Willstaetters.  With  the  latter,  the  Nazis  des- 
troyed a  rich  form  of  life;  they  destroyed  a  civilization. 

It  is  this  aspect  of  the  Nazi  crime  that  has  escaped 
general  attention,  to  some  extent  understandably.  The 
planned  slaughter  of  six  million  human  beings  has  such  a 
paralyzing  effect  on  the  imagination,  the  details  of  the 
action,  the  massive  organization  of  it,  as  for  some  major 
industrial  enterprise,  the  regimented  rounding  up  and 
transporting,  the  shooting  and  gasing  and  incinerating  of 
men,  women,  and  children,  lay  so  crushing  a  burden  on  the 
mind  that  a  conceptual  grasp  of  something  beyond  the 
human  suffering  is  almost  impossible.  The  word  genocide 
has  become  current  to  denote  the  wiping  out  of  a  people; 
we  have  no  word  for  the  crime  of  wiping  out  a  civilization. 

It  was  unforeseen  because  unimaginable.  My  experience 
with  the  Polish  Pogrom  Investigation  Commission  colored 
darkly  forever  after  my  meditations  and  researches  on  anti- 
Semitism,  but  my  darkest  forebodings  were  but  the  faint 
penumbra  of  the  black  reality  that  was  to  come.  Even  so, 
I  was  considered  "hipped"  on  the  subject,  and  what  I  wrote 



on  anti-Semitism  was  widely  criticized  as  morbid  and  un- 
realistic. Would  to  God  that  my  critics,  Jewish  and  non- 
Jewish,  had  been  right!  I  will  not  let  myself  believe  that 
the  world  will  ever  witness  again  a  repetition  anywhere 
of  the  Nazi  fury  against  the  Jews;  I  will  not  because  I  am 
incapable  of  abandoning  hope.  But  neither  will  I  consent 
to  the  view  that  warning  is  no  longer  necessary. 
I  read  in  Gissing's  Ryecroft  Papers: 

Injustice — there  is  the  loathed  crime  which  curses 
the  memory  of  the  world.  The  slave  doomed  by  his 
lord's  caprice  to  perish  under  tortures — one  feels 
that  it  is  a  dreadful  and  intolerable  thing;  but  it  is 
merely  the  crude  presentment  of  what  has  been  done 
and  endured  a  million  times  in  every  state  of  civiliza- 
tion. Oh,  the  last  thoughts  of  those  who  have  agonized 
unto  death  amid  wrongs  to  which  no  man  would  give 
ear!  That  appeal  of  innocence  to  the  hard,  mute  heav- 
ens! Were  there  only  one  such  instance  in  all  the 
chronicles  of  time,  it  should  doom  the  past  to  ab- 
horred oblivion.  Yet  injustice,  the  basest,  most 
ferocious,  is  inextricable  from  warp  and  woof  in  the 
tissue  of  things  gone  by.  And  if  anyone  soothes  himself 
with  the  reflection  that  such  outrages  can  happen  no 
more,  that  mankind  has  passed  beyond  such  hideous 
possibility,  he  is  better  acquainted  with  books  than 
with  human  nature. 

I  will  go  on  insisting  that  anti-Semitism  is  a  specific, 
organic  disease  of  Christian  civilization;  that,  wherever  it 
appears,  it  is  the  companion  or  forerunner  of  injustice  to 
others  than  Jews;  and  far  from  ignoring,  out  of  timidity 
or  a  miscalculating  prudence,  its  first  public  appearance 
anywhere,  we  should — ^Jew  and  Christian  alike — expose 
it  at  once  as  a  threat  to  the  whole  Judeo-Christian  world. 


€^  266  @ 



Z  ^'Writer  and  Lecturer^'  § 

o  o 


RiTER  and  lecturer"  is  the  entry  opposite  "Oc- 
cupation" on  my  passport;  also  on  my  income-tax  form, 
where  the  order  should  be  reversed,  since  my  books  just 
about  pay  the  rent,  lectures  providing  the  rest.  Descrip- 
tively, the  order  is  correct;  most  of  my  labors  go  into 

But  if  I  did  not  have  to  lecture  for  a  living  I  would  be 
running  about  offering  to  do  it  gratis.  I  still  love  with  all 
the  passion  of  my  boyhood  the  feel  of  an  audience  and 
the  challenge  of  oral  exposition.  I  still  cannot  come  across 
an  interesting  idea  without  wanting  to  tell  everybody 
about  it.  I  am  at  the  opposite  pole  from  the  melancholy 
Jacques  with  his:  "I  think  of  as  many  things  .  .  .  but  I 
give  thanks  to  heaven  and  make  no  boast  of  them";  and 
it  has  been  my  wild  good  fortune  that,  unlike  most  com- 
pulsive talkers,  I  have  found  people  willing  to  pay  to 
listen  to  me.  If  I  had  had  to  stay  on  a  regular  job, 
with  regular  responsibilities,  I  would  have  gone  to  pieces 
under  the  pressure  of  my  primary  compulsion,  that  of  the 

Yet,  like  some  of  my  betters,  I  often  write  when  a  con- 
siderable part  of  me  would  rather  be  doing  something  else. 


for  the  compulsion  is  a  complicated  thing.  I  used  to  think 
that  the  hunger  for  fame  was  the  strongest  element  in  it: 

Fame.  The  adrenalin:  to  be  talked  about; 
To  be  a  verb,  to  be  introduced  as  The  .  .  . 
To  be  forgotten  with  embarrassment;  to  be — 
To  be. 
It  has  its  attractions,  but  is  not  the  thing. 

Thus  A.  M.  Klein,  one  of  the  most  unjustly  neglected 
of  our  contemporary  poets.  No,  it  is  not  the  thing.  The 
hunger  for  fame  has  died,  with  much  else.  To  become 
famous  in  old  age  would  be  like  getting  cocktails  after 
dinner.  Of  course  I  want  my  books  to  sell,  but  money 
apart — I  must  anticipate  the  time  when  the  inability  to 
travel  will  be  cutting  into  the  profits  as  well  as  into  the 
pleasures  of  lecturing — I  am  concerned,  more  than  ever, 
with  giving  currency  to  certain  views  and  values. 

This  concern  mingles  with  the  craftsman's  compulsions, 
which  grow  more  and  more  exacting  as  my  taste  improves 
and  my  powers  wane.  I  want  to  see  how  accurate  and 
evocative  I  can  make  a  description,  how  concisely,  grace- 
fully, and  tellingly  express  an  idea;  most  troublesome  of 
all,  because  here  I  am  weakest,  how  natural,  organic,  and 
unnoticed  I  can  make  the  progress  of  a  paragraph,  a  chap- 
ter, a  book;  and  as  a  protagonist,  which  I  am  more  than 
artist  pur  sang,  how  proleptic  I  can  make  my  argument, 
anticipating  in  it  the  maximum  of  possible  objections. 

There  are,  indeed,  times  when  I  sit  down  and  write 
furiously  for  two  or  three  hours.  I  am  "inspired";  the 
afflatus  has  visited  me;  my  spirit's  barque  is  driven  far 
from  the  shore,  far  from  the  trembling  throng;  I  say  to  my- 
self, exultantly,  modestly,  and  in  Cockney:  "This  is  a  bit 
of  all  right!"  Such  moods  are  deceptive  nine  times  out  of 
ten.  What  I  finally  accept  as  passable,  often  with  a  grimace, 



has  been  rewritten  at  least  once,  sometimes  three,  some- 
times four  and  ten  times,  with  many  deletions,  chiefly  of 
the  inspired  passages.  On  the  whole  I  work  in  a  spirit 
of  cheerful  determination,  but  black  days  will  come  up 
without  warning,  without  apparent  reason;  then  I  write 
and  tear  up,  write  and  tear  up,  and  count  myself  lucky  if 
I  break  even.  For  I  can  get  into  a  howling  rage  and  tear 
up  a  week's  or  a  month's  work.  My  gullibility  is  indestruc- 
tible; let  the  afflatus  touch  me  and  while  it  lasts  I  am 
certain,  each  time,  that  I  am  at  the  top  of  my  form.  Experi- 
ence has  taught  me  nothing;  I  am  like  the  undiscourage- 
able  youngster  who  takes  every  month's  crush  for  his 
elective  affinity. 

To  be  unable  to  write  when  I  want — and  it  does  not 
matter  whether  the  drive  is  joyous  or  pleasantly  dogged  or 
grimly  dogged — turns  the  whole  world  awry.  There  is 
a  conspiracy;  I  am  being  persecuted.  It  happens  less  fre- 
quently now,  my  days  have  for  a  long  time  been  more  or 
less  my  own.  I  will  not  tolerate  interruptions  except  by 
arrangement — these  science  lessons,  for  instance.  Even  my 
beloved  lectures  can  become  a  great  nuisance.  If  one  in- 
trudes— fortunately  it  is  almost  always  in  the  evening — I 
strip  the  obligation  down  to  its  essentials  of  preparation 
and  delivery,  though  once  I  am  on  the  platform,  my  dis- 
comforts vanish.  'Tor  the  duration"  I  avoid  welcoming 
committees,  decline  to  visit  local  sights,  turn  down  dinner 
invitations,  excuse  myself  (with  rudeness  when  unavoid- 
able) from  the  reception  that  usually  follows  a  lecture. 
This  for  the  duration  only;  when  the  fit  is  over,  I  am  as 
sociable  as  an  ant,  curious  about  people  and  their  individ- 
ual and  family  histories,  about  congregational  affairs  and 
communal  politics.  Thus,  I  am  remembered  by  some  as  a 
morose  snob,  by  others  as  a  most  companionable  fellow. 

I  learned  early  to  insulate  myself  from  my  surroundings 



and  to  work  almost  anywhere.  I  traveled — I  still  do  some- 
times— with  a  small  portable  typewriter  which  I  used  on 
trains,  planes,  ships,  and  even  buses.  The  moment  I  got 
into  my  hotel  room  I  shifted  the  table  around  to  get  the 
best  light  from  window  or  lamp,  took  out  books  and  manu- 
script, and  was  at  it.  During  the  actual  traveling  I  had 
wax  stopples  in  my  ears;  if  the  passenger  in  the  adjacent 
seat  addressed  me,  I  would  remove  the  nearer  stopple 
laboriously  and  say:  "I  beg  your  pardon?"  I  would  answer 
briefly  and  courteously,  then  replace  the  stopple  with  the 
same  elaborate  ritual.  I  was  rarely  addressed  a  second  time. 
The  sharpest  and  most  intractable  compulsion  is  the  one 
that  attends  what  at  the  moment  seems  to  be,  and  on  rare 
occasions  is,  the  birth  of  an  idea.  I  must  write  it  down  at 
once,  wherever  I  am,  whatever  I  may  be  doing  (I  may,  in 
fact,  be  writing — two  compulsions  in  fratricidal  dispute!), 
and  less  from  the  fear  of  losing  it  than  from  the  need  to 
file  it  away  where  it  will  stop  bothering  me.  If  I  can  sus- 
pend the  current  activity,  I  will  give  the  newborn  idea  all 
the  time  it  asks  for;  otherwise  I  must  content  myself  with 
a  rapid  outline;  and  if  even  that  much  is  impossible,  I 
become  distraught.  In  the  army  this  variety  of  compulsion 
made  me  a  source  of  hilarity  to  my  fellow-soldiers,  and  it 
got  me  into  a  memorable  engagement  when  I  was  working 
in  the  calender  room  of  the  Goodyear  Rubber  factory  in 
Akron.  My  fellow-workers  on  the  night  shift  looked  with 
suspicion  on  my  habit  of  running  into  a  corner,  pulling 
out  pencil  and  notebook,  and  scribbling  wildly  for  a  min- 
ute or  so.  Finally  one  of  them  loudly  voiced  the  opinion 
that  I  was  a  company  spy.  I  angrily  offered  to  show  him 
my  notes  when  the  shift  was  over,  and  a  small  group  of  us 
gathered  before  the  gate  in  the  dawn  light.  Far  from 
allaying  suspicion,  the  notes,  codelike,  half  legible,  excited 
it  the  more.  One  thing  leading  to  another,  I  called  my 



accuser  a  bald-headed  son  of  a  bitch.  What  I  meant  to  say 
was  boneheaded,  which,  being  within  the  limits  of  diplo- 
matic exchange,  is  not  a  casus  belli,  but  he  did  happen  to 
be  partly  bald  and  I  was  not  in  complete  control  of  myself. 
In  the  ensuing  set-to,  he  proved  that  he  was  also  what  A.  E. 
Housman  calls  the  better  man,  and  I  did  not  return  to  the 
factory  that  evening — or  ever  again.  The  worst  of  it  is  that 
these  jottings  are  as  unreliable  as  the  longer  fits  of  inspira- 
tion; when  I  reread  them  later,  they  are  apt  to  astonish 
me  by  their  flatness  and  pointlessness. 

The  reader  is  entitled  to  smile.  "What  a  fuss!  He  must 
really  think  himself  a  genius."  No;  that,  with  the  hunger 
for  fame,  was  spurlos  versenkt  decades  ago,  though  the 
compulsions  remain.  Some  of  my  work  is  well  forgotten, 
some  I  consider  useful,  and  part  of  that,  good.  How  good, 
God  alone  knows,  and  the  reviewers  are  not  in  His  con- 
fidence. Such  reviews  as  come  my  way  no  longer  affect  me. 
The  unfavorable  ones  I  read  with  a  shrug:  'Tor  all  the 
attention  he  pays,  he  might  just  as  well  have  liked  it."  The 
favorable  ones  give  me  the  same  mild  pleasure  as  a 
weighing-machine  character-analysis  card  which  assures  me 
that  I  am  a  man  of  inflexible  determination.  There  have 
been  a  few  exceptions;  here  and  there  a  reviewer  has  read 
carefully,  and  when  he  has  been  dissatisfied  for  reasons  I 
found  valid  (and  in  fact  already  knew),  I  have  wanted 
to  write  him  a  long,  warm  letter  of  thanks. 

Even  my  early  delusions  of  genius  had  in  them  an  ele- 
ment of  pretence;  I  would  not  otherwise  have  endured 
so  many  frustrations.  I  would  have  turned  away  from  my 
family:  "Lass  sie  betteln  gehn,  wenn  sie  hungrig  sind" ;  but 
then,  I  am  myself  unable  to  put  up  with  the  privations  and 
humiliations  of  grinding  poverty,  as  a  Dostoevsky  did,  or 
be  a  hanger-on  like  a  Rainer  Maria  Rilke.  How  stunning 
are  those  rare  figures  at  the  very  top,  a  Shakespeare,  a 



Goethe,  who  combine  supreme  genius  with  worldly 
savoir-faire,  and  sail  through  life  with  reasonable  comfort, 
acceptable  to  God  and  the  tax  collector. 

In  the  days  when  I  got  few  lecture  dates,  and  those 
poorly  paid,  I  did  an  immense  amount  of  translating  from 
Yiddish,  German,  French,  and  Hebrew,  with  Yiddish  out- 
weighing the  other  three  combined.  This  interfered  far 
less  with  my  own  writing  than  the  steady  job — to  be  told 
about  in  due  course — which  I  held  for  seven  years,  for 
I  could  fit  much  of  it  into  my  creative  schedule.  Certain 
writers,  such  as  Sholom  Aleichem,  Bialik,  Peretz,  Shmarya 
Levin,  I  felt  it  my  duty  to  make  accessible  to  English 
readers;  others,  such  as  I.  J.  Singer  and  Sholem  Asch,  were 
bread  and  butter  jobs.  But  I  never  translated  a  book  I 
did  not  in  some  measure  respect.  I  quarreled  and  almost 
broke  with  Sholem  Asch  when  I  refused  to  translate  the 
third  volume  of  his  New  Testament  trilogy,  Mary,  and  his 
novel  of  our  times,  East  River. 

When  my  own  work  is  not  hounding  me,  I  can  find 
pleasure  in  translating;  it  is  a  separate  craft,  with  problems 
and  frustrations  of  its  own.  I  often  read  masterly  transla- 
tions— Shakespeare  in  German,  Proust  in  English — side  by 
side  with  the  originals,  delighting  in  particular  ingenui- 
ties. (The  greatest  of  all  translations,  the  King  James  ver- 
sion of  the  Bible,  stands  apart;  how  it  was  done  is  beyond 
one's  imagination.)  Great  translators  are  rarer  than  great 
writers  (the  two  never  seem  to  come  together)  and,  alas, 
I  am  no  more  a  Schlegel  or  a  Scott-Montcrieff  than  I  am 
a  Shakespeare  or  a  Proust. 

Sholom  Aleichem  I  transmitted  rather  than  translated. 
Supreme  among  Yiddish  writers,  he  is  so  drenched  in  the 
idiom  of  the  Shtetl  that  every  other  sentence  cries  out 
for  a  paragraph  of  explanation — and  he  par  excellence  a 
humorist!  I  confess  that  when  I  read  translations  by  Sho- 



lorn  Aleichem  I  wince  rather  than  laugh — but  I  could  not 
have  done  better  myself.  I  wrote  round  him,  and  about 
him,  retelling  rather  than  translating.  So,  too,  with  Yal 
Peretz,  who  is,  however,  less  of  a  problem,  being  more  of 
an  intellectual.  I  waited  many  years,  and  lectured  a  good 
deal  on  both  men,  before  I  undertook  to  "render"  them 
into  English.  Bialik  I  tackled  early  because  I  did  not 
and  do  not  find  as  wide  a  gap  between  Hebrew  and  Eng- 
lish as  between  Yiddish  and  English,  Shmarya  Levin  was 
moderately  difficult,  I.  J.  Singer  quite  easy,  and  Sholem 
Asch  easiest  of  all.  In  substance  and  style  I.  J.  Singer  (not 
to  be  confused  with  his  younger  brother,  Bashevis  Singer) 
is  remote  from  the  Shtetl;  Asch  began  there  and  moved 
away  from  it.  Asch's  best  book,  Der  T'hillim  Yid  (literally. 
The  Psalm-Jew,  translated  as  Salvation),  is  one  of  his 
earliest.  It  reads  poorly  in  English  and  was  a  failure;  I 
was  asked  to  retranslate  it,  but  hadn't  the  courage  to  try. 
I.  J.  Singer  has  done  well  in  English;  Asch  was  of  course 
a  tremendous  success  with  and  after  his  New  Testament 
trilogy.  To  my  considerable  annoyance,  I  am  better  known 
as  his  translator  than  as  an  original  writer,  whence  obvi- 
ously— to  anticipate  trigger-happy  amateur  psychoanalysts 
— the  moderateness  of  my  esteem  for  his  later  work.  But  I 
have  less  disreputable  grounds  for  remembering  Asch  with 
distress;  he  brought  a  vast  amount  of  still-continuing 
trouble  into  my  life.  As  the  sales  of  his  books  soared,  one 
after  another,  into  the  hundreds  of  thousands,  the  rumor 
got  about  that  he  owed  everything  to  my  genius  as  editor- 
translator.  There  was  no  truth  in  it,  but  the  rumormongers 
were  nearly  all  Yiddish  writers  with  their  own  standards 
of  evaluation  and  modes  of  reasoning.  Some  of  them  might 
admit  that  Asch  was  not  at  all  bad  as  compared  with  them- 
selves, but  he  wasn't  that  good;  ergo,  I  had  played  vis-a-vis 
Asch  the  combined  roles  of  Perkins  vis-a-vis  Wolfe  and 
Scott-Montcrieff  vis-a-vis  Proust. 



It  became  an  article  of  faith  in  part  of  the  Yiddish 
literary  world  that  to  get  me  as  translator  was  to  be  assured 
of  success,  and  some  considered  me  such  a  good  translator 
that  they  advised  me  to  write  in  Yiddish  and  translate  my- 
self into  English,  Thus,  for  nearly  a  quarter  of  a  century  I 
have  had  to  fight  off  a  succession  of  desperate  men  in  whose 
minds  I  was  fixed  as  the  only  hope.  I  learned  to  see  in  a 
new  and  terrifying  light  Mahomet's  classic  description 
of  the  Jews  as  "the  People  of  the  Book." 

"Fight  off"  is  putting  it  feebly;  some  I  have  had  to  peel 
away  with  patches  of  my  skin.  As  an  experienced  reader,  I 
need  only  look  at  the  first  few  paragraphs  of  a  book  or 
manuscript  to  estimate  the  quality  of  the  material;  to 
make  completely  sure,  I  pick  a  few  pages  at  random,  and  I 
have  never  been  "disappointed."  But  what  can  you  do 
with  a  man  who  insists  that  you  read  every  one  of  his  fifty 
or  a  hundred  thousand  or  two  hundred  thousand  words 
because,  he  assures  you,  that  is  the  only  way  you  can  get 
the  true  effect?  What  can  you  do  if  he  implores  and  de- 
mands that  you  let  him  read  to  you  for  an  hour  or  two,  if 
he  telephones  again  and  again,  offering  to  clarify  certain 
passages  which,  he  admits,  cannot  be  appreciated  without 
sustained  attention  under  his  supervision?  Your  blood 
pressure  rises  from  call  to  call,  in  the  end  you  bang  down 
the  receiver — and  feel  remorseful,  angrier  with  yourself 
than  with  your  tormentor.  Does  he  not,  after  all,  feel  as 
frustrated  as  a  true  artist? 

The  occasionally  humble,  who  bow  quietly  to  my  No 
and  withdraw  with  dignity,  are  almost  as  bad.  A  throb  of 
sympathy  passes  through  me;  this  is  obviously  a  fine  human 
being.  I  want  to  mitigate  in  some  measure  the  effect  of 
my  rejection.  But  one  incautious  word  and  I  shall  be 

For  these  time-wasting,  energy-consuming,  nerve-wear- 
ing episodes  I  blame  Sholem  Asch.  If  only  he  had  been 



considerate  enough  not  to  achieve  a  succes  fou!  If  only  I 
had  had  the  foresight  to  leave  my  name  out  as  translator! 
But  on  the  other  hand  I  wanted  it  there  for  business 

However,  this  complaint  is  partly  balanced  by  a  debt 
of  gratitude.  If  the  Jews  have  a  higher  proportion  of 
scribbling  maniacs  than  any  other  people,  they  also  have 
a  higher  proportion  of  true  literary  talent.  Some  of  this  I 
have  discovered  for  myself,  some  has  been  brought  to  my 
attention  as  the  too  well-known  translator  of  Sholem 
Asch.  How  pleasant  it  is  to  come  upon  a  good  piece  of 
work  by  an  unknown!  And  what  a  sinking  feeling  follows: 
"We  have  to  do  something  about  this."  More  than  one 
publisher,  my  own  included,  and  more  than  one  Jewish 
foundation,  will  testify  to  the  persistence  with  which  I 
have  urged  the  merits  of  Jewish  writers,  and  to  the  labor  I 
have  put,  so  often  in  vain,  into  getting  an  English-reading 
public  for  them. 

Because  Asch's  portraits  of  Jesus,  Paul,  and  Mary  were 
warmly  sympathetic,  he  was  widely  and  stupidly  accused 
of  seeking  to  convert  Jews  to  Christianity,  from  which  it 
followed  that  he  was  himself  a  secret  convert,  a  sort  of 
undercover  agent  for  the  Church.  This  malicious  inven- 
tion still  comes  up  during  question  periods  of  my  lectures. 
As  it  happened,  Asch  was  Jewish  through  and  through; 
apostasy  was  as  remote  from  him,  with  his  make-up  and 
attachments,  as  from  an  orthodox  Jew. 

Those  who  charged  Asch  with  apostasy  usually  added 
that  in  his  New  Testament  novels  he  had  also  sinned  for 
money;  he  had  deliberately  descended  from  his  natural 
level.  Talk  of  this  kind  is  silly  on  general  grounds.  A  man 
with  ingrained  standards — and  Asch  had  them — cannot 
get  rid  of  them.  He  may  try  his  hand  at  a  potboiler,  but 
here  and  there  the  craftsman  creeps  in,  and  pride  being 



Stronger  than  prudence,  he  lets  the  phrases  stand,  hoping 
the  reader  won't  notice  that  he  is  confronted  with  litera- 
ture. The  result  is  neither  the  one  thing  nor  the  other. 
Even  writers  who  declare,  with  what  they  hope  will  pass 
for  disarming  frankness,  that  they  know  they  are  writing 
trash,  having  no  genuine  talent,  are  lying.  Only  a  saint  is 
capable  of  such  humility,  and  saints  who  think  they  can't 
write  don't. 

To  one  who  knew  Asch  personally,  the  charge  is  silly 
on  particular  grounds.  He  had  a  massive  conception  of 
himself  as  an  artist,  and  developed  a  deep  grievance  as 
year  after  year  went  by  without  bringing  him  the  Nobel 
Prize.  To  him  his  New  Testament  novels  were  more  than 
literary  masterpieces;  they  were  a  Messianic  attempt  to 
reconcile  Jewry  and  Christendom.  He  was  dumbfounded 
when  I  refused  to  translate  Mary.  I  would  not  tell  him 
outright  that  I  thought  the  book  an  artistic  mess,  but  that 
was  what  my  individual  objections  amounted  to.  The 
sympathy  he  had  brought  to  his  portrayals  of  Jesus  and 
Paul  became  cloying  sentimentality  when  he  turned  to 
Mary.  Here  he  could  indeed  be  unjustly  suspected  of 
secret  Christological  sentiments,  and  even  of  what  many 
Christians  have  objected  to,  namely,  Mariolatry.  The  rage 
of  his  slanderers  had,  however,  spent  itself  on  The  Naza- 
rene  and  The  Apostle,  where  it  had  not  a  shadow  of 

Protagonist,  propagandist,  teacher — all  these  descrip- 
tions fit  me.  My  over-all  message,  addressed  to  Jews,  is 
that  a  knowledge  of  Jewish  history  in  the  widest  sense — 
the  experiences  and  thoughts  of  the  Jewish  people  from 
antiquity  to  the  present — is  indispensable  to  the  Jew  who 
wants  to  remain  Jewish  without  becoming  warped  by  anti- 
Semitism.  I  may  also  be  described  as  a  one-man  Anti-Self- 
Defamation  League,  on  the  prowl  for  Jewish  writers  who 



transfer  their  Jewish  self-hatred  to  their  people;  and  I  told 
an  audience  recently  that  I  look  upon  myself  as  an  em- 
ployee of  the  Jewish  people  with  a  lifelong  contract  on 
which  only  one  signature  appears.  I  am  a  professional  Jew, 
in  a  class  with  rabbis,  fund-raisers,  Hebrew  teachers,  execu- 
tives of  Jewish  institutions,  and  the  like,  but  while  they 
are  on  regular  salaries  I  peddle  piecework.  From  the  point 
of  view  of  security  this  has  its  drawbacks,  but  the  com- 
pensations outweigh  them.  I  have  no  organization,  no 
board  of  trustees,  no  executive  committees  to  reckon  with, 
no  fellow-employees  to  adjust  to.  Nor  can  the  accusation,  so 
common  in  public  life,  of  hanging  on  to  a  job,  be  leveled 
at  me.  Nobody  is  contractually  committed  to  buying  my 
books  or  listening  to  my  lectures. 

In  the  roles  I  have  mentioned — to  which  may  be  added 
Unofficial  Minister  for  Jewish  Self-Improvement — I  am  a 
much  misunderstood  man.  A  questioner  at  a  lecture  once 
said:  "Whatever  happens  anywhere  in  the  world  you  ask 
right  away:  'Is  that  good  for  the  Jews?'  "  I  answered:  "The 
criterion  has  its  merits.  An  improvement  in  the  position  of 
the  Jews  anywhere  usually  goes  with  an  improvement  in 
the  condition  of  the  host  people.  Oppression  of  the  Jews 
indicates  a  deterioration."  My  questioner  remained  stand- 
ing, dissatisfied.  "Perhaps  you  mean,"  I  said,  "that  I  am 
narrow,  parochial,  Jewish-centered,  to  the  exclusion  of 
all  other  interests?"  He  nodded.  I  went  on:  "To  be  Jewish- 
centered  is  to  be  world-centered;  we  are  a  world-people."  I 
quoted  Zangwill's  adaptation  of  Terence's  line:  "Judaeus 
sum,  humani  nil  a  me  alienum,  puto." 

But  he  had  touched  on  old  memories,  on  forgotten 
ambitions  and  discomforts.  I  had  longed  to  be  famous  in 
the  world  at  large,  and  yet  I  had  let  myself  be  absorbed 
in  the  Jewish  problem,  an  unpromising  area.  Novels 
about  Jews,  yes;  essays  on  general  problems,  yes;  but  essays 



on  Jewish  problems!  They  are  a  deliberate  bid  for  obscu- 
rity. This  is  not  to  say  that  I  could  have  achieved  promi- 
nence elsewhere,  but  I  certainly  did  not  give  myself  the 
chance.  I  once  wrote  a  book  called  King  Mob,  a  study  of 
modern  mass  psychology,  under  a  pseudonym  (Frank  K. 
Notch,  which  I  thought  smacked  of  New  England  crusti- 
ness) because  by  that  time  I  had  become  typed  as  a  writer 
on  the  Jewish  problem.  I  did  not  want  my  regular  readers 
(I  already  had  some)  to  buy  the  book  under  a  misapprehen- 
sion; and  I  did  not  want  reviewers  to  turn  from  it  under 
the  same  misapprehension.  (I  myself  was  still  under  the 
misapprehension  that  books  are  sold  by  favorable  re- 
views.) Such  reviews  as  I  saw  were  for  the  most  part  highly 
favorable;  one  reviewer  thought  I  was  Sinclair  Lewis,  which 
I  thought  offensive.  The  book  did  not  make  Frank  K. 
Notch  famous,  but  I  feel  that  if  he  had  been  encouraged 
he  might  have  become  a  somebody-at-large.  I  abandoned 
him,  sucked  back  into  my  fated  preoccupation.  I  have  since 
then  made  other  excursions  into  the  general  field,  under 
my  own  name,  but  they  have  been  single  and  unsustained 

I  have  said  that  if  I  had  had  to  stay  on  a  regular  job 
with  regular  responsibilities  I  would  have  gone  to  pieces 
under  my  primary  compulsion,  that  of  the  writer.  I  mean 
nothing  spectacular,  like  drink  or  jail  or  suicide  or  the 
electric  chair;  only  a  run  of  the  mill  squalid  and  fretful 
life.  Yet  my  seven  years  as  employee  of  the  American 
Zionist  Organization — the  only  steady  job  I  ever  held — 
should  have  been  happy  ones.  The  ideals  of  the  organiza- 
tion were  in  line  with  mine;  I  had  audiences  to  address 
and  a  periodical  to  write  in;  most  of  my  immediate  as- 
sociates were  congenial,  and  the  pay  was  good.  I  was  in 
fact  superficially  happy  for  a  time.  But  something  was 
going  on  underneath  that  made  me  resign  and  take  the 



risky  plunge  into  the  life  of  a  free-lance.  The  year  was 
1928.  If  I  had  known  what  lay  ahead,  I  might  have  stayed 

There  are  many  kinds  of  work  I  am  not  fitted  for.  I 
would  fail  as  a  teacher  because  I  would  play  up  to  the  good 
students  and  neglect  the  poor  ones.  I  cannot  endure  edi- 
torial work;  straightening  out  and  polishing  another  man's 
sentences  is  my  idea  of  intellectual  slavery.  As  reader  and 
adviser  in  a  publishing  house  I  would  miss  all  the  best 
sellers.  But  if  there  is  anything  I  am  supremely  unfitted 
for,  it  is  day-to-day  political  work. 

I  am  ill  at  ease  and  tire  quickly  in  company  not  to  my 
taste.  I  admire  clever  and  patient  negotiators  without 
wanting  to  be  one.  If  I  have  to  take  up  a  "bargaining  posi- 
tion"— ask  for  more  than  my  side  is  entitled  to  or  is 
prepared  to  settle  for — I  am  so  self-conscious  that  the 
maneuver  backfires.  As  a  liar  I  would  trip  myself  up  with  a 
superfluity  of  corroborative  detail.  In  short,  as  a  practical 
politician  I  am  hopeless,  and  by  no  means  proud  of  the 

The  American  Zionist  Organization  was  a  political 
body,  made  up  of  all  sorts  of  people.  It  was  a  small  seg- 
ment of  American  Jewry,  but  had  its  parties  and  cliques, 
pro-labor  and  anti-labor,  religious  and  secular,  Achad  Ha- 
Amist  (emphasis  on  the  cultural-spiritual),  so-called 
Herzlian  (emphasis  on  the  political),  pro-Birobidjan  (the 
Russian  plan  for  a  Jewish  state  in  Siberia — exclusively  for 
Russian  Jews — what  a  fraud  that  was!),  anti-Birobidjan. 
The  mass  of  American  Jewry  was  inert  to  Zionism,  most 
of  the  Jewish  labor  movement  (classical  socialist)  was 
hostile,  so  was  most  of  Reform  Judaism;  Jewish  intel- 
lectuals at  large  despised  it,  and  when  Ludwig  Lewisohn 
became  a  Zionist  he  went  into  the  wilderness.  Such — and 
more  like  it — was  the  complex  of  forces  I  had  to  work  in. 



I  was  for  a  time  a  member  of  the  American  Zionist 
administration  and  for  a  year  a  member  of  the  Actions 
Committee  of  the  World  Zionist  Organization.  I  had  to 
take  sides,  accept  compromises,  obey  caucus  decisions  when 
it  had  so  been  agreed,  and  vote  against  my  convictions 
or,  ao^ainst  them,  refrain  from  votinsr.  I  had  to  seek  the 
votes  of  people  I  found  noisome,  and  I  stumbled  over  the 
gushing  courtesies  which  are  the  lubricants  of  political 
co-operation,  the  pot  calling  the  kettle  white  for  the  return 
compliment.  I  realized  that  there  is  no  other  way  in  politi- 
cal life,  and  "political  life"  extends  into  every  variety  of 
organized  human  activity — synagogue  and  church,  yeshivah 
and  university,  and  the  most  idealistic  associations  and 
brotherhoods.  I  realized  that  the  man  who  is  "above  poli- 
tics" is  simply  letting  others  do  the  disagreeable  work 
which  is  indispensable  to  the  conduct  of  human  affairs. 

Jewish  leadership  in  America  is  almost  entirely  unpro- 
fessional; there  are  few  important  jobs  and,  if  I  may  so  put 
it,  no  pork  barrels.  Rewards  therefore  take  honorific 
forms:  presidencies,  chairmanships,  a  place  on  a  letter- 
head, newspaper  publicity,  oratorical  encomiums  by  visit- 
ing bigwigs  at  local  banquets.  In  most  cases  such  rewards 
are  well  earned;  much  labor  and  devotion  goes  into  the 
successful  direction  of  a  U.J. A.  or  Israel  Bond  drive,  the 
creation  of  an  institution,  though  the  heavy  spadework  is 
of  course  done  by  professionals.  All  this  I  could  let  pass, 
but  when  the  extorted  reward  is  the  privilege  of  delivering 
an  address  before  an  important  audience,  the  result  some- 
times crosses  the  threshold  of  my  endurance.  The  majority 
of  amateur  speakers  have  so  little  rapport  with  their  lis- 
teners that  they  are  insensitive  to  the  most  demonstrative 
inattention.  They  seem  to  be  addressing  themselves.  A 
hum  of  conversation  rises  in  the  hall,  a  general  dispersal 
sets  in;  they  go  on,  undeterred.  They  remind  me  of  my 



aunt  Mallie,  who  never  connected  with  anybody.  I  marvel 
that  they  should  so  hunger  for  an  audience  and,  getting 
one,  should  have  nothing  to  do  with  it. 

My  enthusiasm  for  the  cause  carried  me  along  for  a 
number  of  years,  but,  underneath,  a  double  revolt  was 
gathering.  First,  of  the  writer.  I  was  miserably  cramped 
for  time;  I  could  not  periodically  set  aside  a  few  weeks  for 
leisurely  production,  tinkering  with  sentences  and  chapters. 
I  could  not  set  aside  a  daily  interval.  I  could  not  as  the 
representative  of  the  Zionist  Organization  behave  on  lec- 
ture tours  as  I  have  done  since.  I  was  at  the  disposal  of  the 
Zionist  community  from  arrival  to  departure.  In  New 
York  I  had  my  office  duties.  There  was  as  little  room  here 
for  "compulsions"  as  there  had  been  in  the  army  or  at  the 
Goodyear  Rubber  Company.  The  books  I  managed  to 
turn  out  during  that  period  were  substandard  even  for 

Second,  of  the  free  commentator.  An  organization  man 
is  bound  by  rules;  if  he  agrees  with  them,  he  belongs  by 
nature  and  conviction;  otherwise,  he  must  get  out  or  go 
under.  There  is  the  sacred-cow  rule:  a  certain  man  is  use- 
ful to  the  movement.  You  think  that  his  practical  useful- 
ness is  more  than  offset  by  the  demoralizing  influence  on 
Jewish  life  of  his  vulgarity  and  his  unsavory  business  rep- 
utation. A  certain  rabbi  plays  a  leading  role  in  Zionism; 
it  is  your  opinion  that  his  arrogance  and  his  pathological 
careerism  are  bad  for  the  movement  and  worse  for  the 
rabbinate.  You  feel  it  your  duty  to  make  known  your 
opinions  in  print;  the  organization  does  not  consider  this 
helpful.  (I  ought  to  add  that  I  have  known  a  saint  in  Jew- 
ish political  life;  that  was  Henrietta  Szold,  the  founder  of 
Hadassah,  and  it  is  inconceivable  that  even  she  did  not 
now  and  again  deviate  from  strictly  saintly  standards  by 
silence  or  evasion.) 



There  is  the  rule  that  the  organization  is  always  right 
in  its  external  relationships — the  equivalent  of  "My  coun- 
try right  or  wrong"  and  "politics  stops  at  the  frontier."  If 
you  believe  your  organization  to  be  in  the  wrong,  you  may, 
indeed,  stay  in  it,  and  try  to  set  it  right;  but  you  cannot 
be  its  employee. 

I  was  at  odds  with  the  organization  on  some  issues. 
Under  the  cruel  pressure  of  a  rising  world  anti-Semitism, 
it  devoted  little  attention  to  the  spiritual  needs  of  the 
Jewish  people,  concentrating  on  the  promotion  of  im- 
migration into  Palestine.  I  thought  this  understandable 
but  wrong,  a  shortsighted  self-defeating  policy.  The  at- 
tention paid  to  the  young  generation  was  fitful  and  inade- 
quate, and  it  seldom  rose  above  the  intellectual  level  of  a 
Sunday  school.  The  organization  should  have  founded  and 
maintained  at  a  loss  a  periodical  of  high  literary  quality,  a 
forum  for  established  Jewish  writers,  an  invitation  to 
young  writers  of  promise.  I  believed  that  a  culturally  and 
spiritually  reawakened  Jewry  would  ultimately  yield  larger 
practical  results.  But  a  cultural  and  spiritual  renaissance  is 
a  vague  thing,  and  the  cry  was  for  practical  results  now. 
Again,  there  crept  into  the  movement  a  repellent  Jewish 
jingoism  which  has  increased  with  the  founding  of  the 
Jewish  state.  Many  leading  Zionists  disapproved;  the  or- 
ganization could  not  make  such  disapproval  its  business. 
For  all  these  reasons  I  left  the  employ  of  the  organiza- 
tion: but,  chiefly,  to  be  "free  to  write." 

But  how  remote  already  was  the  literary  parole  of  my 
Paris  days:  "Art  for  art's  sake.  If  the  writing  is  good  it 
needs  no  other  justification.  The  true  artist  takes  in  the 
literary  field  Cesare  Borgia's  motto  in  the  political:  'Fais 
ce  que  voudras,  advienne  que  pourra — do  what  you  want 
to  do,  come  what  may.'  Express  yourself.  Don't  teach,  don't 
preach,  don't  play  the  world-improver,  leave  that  to  the 



deluded   busybodies   who   anyhow   do   more   harm   than 

That  was  gone — and  yet  twinges  of  it  continued  to 
haunt  me,  and  do  till  this  day.  I  want  to  write  something 
just  for  the  fun  of  it — to  the  extent  that  writing  is  fun.  I 
once  took  off  three  months  to  write  an  intellectual  thril- 
ler. The  Devil  That  Failed,  about  a  man  who  was  kid- 
napped by  a  group  of  pygmies  who  managed,  by  the  ingen- 
ious arrangement  of  his  surroundings,  to  persuade  him 
that  they  were  of  normal  size  and  that  he  had  suffered  an 
attack  of  gigantism;  his  problem  was  to  discover  without 
help  from  outside  his  miniaturized  surroundings,  that  he 
was  normal  and  his  captors  abnormal.  I  still  like  the  book, 
which  was  reprinted  in  England,  though  I  am  afraid  that 
it  is  tainted  by  a  moral.  I  once  wrote  a  novel  of  husband- 
and-wife  relations.  Beyond  Woman,  and  can  read  parts  of 
it  without  distaste;  I  spoiled  it  by  making  the  characters 
gentile  while  my  models  were  Jewish.  But  for  these,  and 
my  first  two  novels,  whose  names  I  won't  mention,  my 
books  have  had  some  sort  of  educational  purpose  chiefly 
for  the  benefit  of  Jews.  However,  with  the  reservation 
noted,  there  was  occasional  fun  in  the  writing  of  these 
books.  The  World  of  Sholom  Aleichem,  which  has  been 
reprinted  every  two  or  three  years  since  I  wrote  it  twenty 
years  ago  (and  lest  the  reader  wonder  why  I  need  to  lec- 
ture, let  me  mention  that  its  sale  has  not  yet  reached  the 
thirty-thousand  mark),  and  Prince  of  the  Ghetto,  on  Yal 
Peretz,  were  enjoyable  tasks;  the  nearest  to  pure  fun  was 
Certain  People  of  the  Book,  a  reconstruction  of  a  number 
of  Biblical  characters.  The  Gentleman  and  the  Jew  was 
hard  going,  and  there  was  no  fun  at  all  in  The  Professor 
and  the  Fossil,  a  retort  to  Arnold  Toynbee's  A  Study  of 
History,  with  its  nasty  misprision  of  the  Jews,  or  Level 
Sunlight,  a  critical  examination  of  the  State  of  Israel  in 



1953,  with  attention  to  negative  features.  Other  books  I 
have  written  I  shall  mention  further  on;  and  there  are 
many  more  that  I  want  to  write. 

I  want  to  write  a  book  to  be  called  The  Charm  of  Yid- 
dish, and  I  would  open  with  a  detailed  side  by  side  com- 
parison of  Shtutchkoff's  magnificent  Thesaurus  of  the 
Yiddish  language  and  Roget's  Thesaurus  of  the  English 
language,  showing  how  the  number  of  words  and  idioms 
gathered  round  particular  objects  and  ideas  in  the  respec- 
tive languages  mirrors  the  differences  in  the  modes  of 
thinking  and  of  historical  experience.  Hints  on  this  sub- 
ject are  scattered  throughout  my  Jewish  books,  but  they 
are  not  enough.  The  power  and  attractiveness  of  Yiddish 
owe  much  to  its  dual  character.  Its  beginnings  lay  in  simple 
economic  necessity;  Jewish  traders  in  the  Rhine  Valley 
eight  or  nine  hundred  years  ago,  coming  up  from  the 
south,  had  to  learn  the  local  dialects,  and  turned  them  into 
a  jargon;  into  this  jargon  they  ultimately  infused  the  non- 
economic  element  of  their  lives,  their  Jewishness.  The 
final  result  was  a  language  far  more  strongly  polarized  than 
English  or  French  or  German  into  a  spirit  of  practicality 
and  a  spirit  of  other-wordliness,  of  mercantilism  and  Mes- 
sianism.  I  would  have  to  do  a  great  deal  of  reading  for  this 

I  want  to  make  a  study  of  Jewish  apostates,  of  which 
there  are  many  types:  Heine,  who  "converted"  for  con- 
venience and  remained  emotionally  tied  to  his  people  and 
its  traditions;  in  his  class  were  Daniel  Chwolsohn  and 
Benjamin  Disraeli — but  it  was  the  elder  Disraeli  who  led 
his  family  into  the  Church;  Karl  Marx,  too,  grew  up  in  a 
converted  household,  but  he  thought  of  the  Jews  with 
hatred;  Boris  Pasternak  and  Simone  Weil  were  genuine 
converts,  with  widely  different  approaches;  Jacob  Frank 
and  Sabbathai  Tzvi  were  pathological  cases.  There  are 



non-religious  Jewish  "apostates"  who  demonstratively 
repudiate  their  people  in  the  name  of  a  secular  cause,  just 
as  Pasternak  did  it  in  the  name  of  his  brand  of  Christian- 
ity. Such  a  man  was  David  Bergelson,  also  a  Russian  Jew 
who,  however,  wrote  in  Yiddish;  but  whereas  Pasternak's 
repudiation  was  compassionate  and  condescending,  Bergel- 
son's  was  filled  with  a  Streicher-like  loathing  of  Jewish 
things.  Most  of  Bergelson's  novels  are  merely  indifferent 
to  the  subject,  but  his  greatest  book,  Bam  Dnieper  {By 
the  Dnieper),  a  magnificent  panorama  of  Russian  and 
Jewish  life  at  the  turn  of  the  century,  is  haunted  by  an 
obsessive  disgust  with  Jewish  life,  and  in  passage  after  pas- 
sage he  descends  to  the  level  of  Der  Volkische  Beohachter. 
Yiddish  and  Hebrew  critics  usually  ignore  Bam  Dnieper, 
and  thus  his  name  is  allowed  to  stand  high  on  the  roster 
of  Yiddish  literature.  I  suppose  that  in  a  way  it  should;  but 
when  Bergelson  is  included  in  the  martyrology  of  Jewish 
writers  who  were  liquidated  by  Stalin,  I  protest.  At  one 
time  I  wanted  to  see  Bam  Dnieper  translated  into  English, 
for  the  record.  I  wanted  this  particular  piece  of  Jewish 
history  to  be  more  widely  known;  I  wanted  the  role  of 
the  Yevsektzia  to  be  understood,  and  I  wanted  to  point 
the  moral  of  its  miserable  fate.  But  so  many  friends  have 
disagreed  with  me,  fearing  the  harm  that  would  be  done, 
that  I  have  changed  my  mind.  As  to  Ilya  Ehrenburg,  who 
writes  in  Russian,  I  am  at  a  loss  as  to  how  to  classify  him. 
He  has  used  and  abused  his  self-identification  as  Jew  with 
immense  skill,  to  become  the  only  prominent  Jewish 
writer  in  Russia  who  has  survived  unpersecuted  into  a 
somewhat  malodorous  old  age. 

I  would  like  to  write  a  long  essay  on  my  relations  to 
America,  the  country  without  which  there  would  hardly 
be  a  Jewish  people  today  and  therefore  no  Jewish  home- 
land; and  a  book  on  American  Jewish  writers,  with  special 



attention  to  the  recent  crop;  and  still  another  on  the 
enthusiasms  of  intellectuals  without  wisdom  and  their  un- 
reliability as  guides  to  enduring  values. 

But,  above  all,  I  want  to  write  a  book  on  the  layman's 
relation  to  science  or,  rather,  to  scientific  knowledge,  re- 
cording, among  other  things,  my  sad  belief — the  result  of 
some  years  of  study — that  scientific  knowledge  cannot  be 
"popularized";  that  without  the  equivalent  of  a  sound 
high-school  and  first-  and  second-year  university  training 
in  the  subject,  one  can't  begin  to  understand  what  the 
scientists  are  saying  in  their  capacity  as  scientists;  that 
most  science  popularizations  and  practically  all  TV  scienti- 
fic programs  (excluding  the  tutorial  ones)  are,  in  that 
sense,  frauds;  and  that  the  problem  of  the  relation  be- 
tween the  humanist  and  the  scientist  is  a  long,  long  way 
from  solution.  The  problem  has  of  late  been  haunting  me 
with  such  persistence  that  I  even  tried  to  weave  it  sub- 
stantially into  this  book  as  part  of  my  life  experience;  but 
it  got  out  of  hand  and  I  must  return  to  it  elsewhere. 

It  is  generally  held  that  as  a  writer  ages  he  improves  his 
style  at  the  expense  of  his  ideas.  I  will  say  nothing  about 
my  style,  but  I  am  bursting  with  ideas;  they  may  not  be 
good  ones,  but  the  urge  to  expound  them  is  as  compulsive 
as  ever. 


®  286  C4 

I                           CHAPTER  XVIII  I 

i                              .  I 

I                      TA^  Maggid  t 

t                         ®  i 

^  «(• 



HE  FIRST  TIME  a  chairman,  thanking  me  at  the  end 
of  a  lecture,  made  use  of  the  kindly  formula:  "May  he  be 
spared  many  years  to  carry  on  the  good  work,"  I  nearly 
laughed  out  aloud.  I  took  it  he  was  confusing  me  with 
another  lecturer,  as  chairmen  sometimes  do.  I  glanced 
over  the  audience — not  a  smile  anywhere.  The  absurdity 
of  it!  Why,  only  yesterday  they  had  been  using  the  other 
formula:  "This  brilliant  young  man  .  .  ."  Then  it  occurred 
to  me  that  I  had  been  addressing  audiences  for  over  half 
a  century. 

I  see  myself  as  one  of  the  Maggidim,  the  wandering 
preachers  of  East  European  Jewry  about  whom  I  had  first 
heard  from  Lamport,  and  my  line  of  descent  is  through 
Shmarya  Levin,  himself  a  modernized  version  of  the  tradi- 
tion. My  lecture  subjects  are  drawn  mostly  from  books  I 
have  written  on  Jewish  themes  and  books  I  intend  to 
write,  and,  as  I  have  indicated,  I  do  not  pretend  to  be 
merely  a  purveyor  of  information.  I  have  an  axe  to  grind. 
My  general  objective  in  lecturing,  as  in  writing,  is  to  help 
Jews  acquire  an  interest  in  Jewish  knowledge  with  the 
hope  that  they  will  transmit  it  to  their  children,  though, 
with  the  recent  improvement  in  Jewish  youth  education, 


the  children  sometimes  know  more  than  the  parents,  and 
then  it  is  a  question  of  encouraging  the  parents  at  least  to 
keep  up  with  their  children.  Where  the  interest  already 
exists,  I  cater  to  it.  My  theory  of  Zionist  propaganda  is 
that  the  more  a  Jew  knows  of  his  people's  cultural  and 
spiritual  heritage  the  more  likely  he  is  to  be  a  Zionist. 

It  took  me  many  years  to  create  a  market  for  my  lec- 
turers. I  had  to  educate  audiences  to  like  the  kind  of 
education  I  offered.  I  was  told  that  I  was  too  highbrow, 
but  the  curious  thing  was  that  I  never  heard  from  the 
people  I  was  too  highbrow  for.  It  was  always:  "As  far  as  I'm 
concerned,  you  understand,  it  was  wonderful.  I  enjoy  an 
intellectual  talk;  but  everybody  isn't  like  you  and  me." 
Actually,  as  the  attentive  reader — if  I  still  have  one  at  this 
point — will  have  perceived,  there  is  nothing  of  the  high- 
brow about  me  as  a  writer;  as  a  lecturer  I  am  equally 
unambitious.  I  only  asked  my  audiences  to  think  along 
with  me;  it  called  for  a  very  modest  effort,  and  they  were 
more  than  equal  to  it;  but  they  had  been  conditioned  into 
a  prejudice  that  a  lecture  was  not  the  proper  place  for  that 
sort  of  thing.  What  with  that  and  my  interludes  of  un- 
sociability, I  got  few  invitations  even  at  derisory  fees.  After 
about  two  and  a  half  decades,  I  had  as  many  engagements 
as  I  cared  to  accept,  at  better,  though  still  moderate,  fees 
— a  confirmation  of  Sholom  Aleichem's  aphorism  that 
every  Jew  would  die  a  millionaire  if  he  only  lived  long 

I  find  this  crucial  difference  between  writing  and  lec- 
turing: in  the  first  the  feeling  of  accomplishment  or  failure 
is  deferred;  in  the  second  it  is  immediate.  It  takes  me  a 
long  time  to  decide — if  ever  I  do — whether  something  I 
have  written  has  done  the  job;  lecturing,  I  know  from 
minute  to  minute  whether  I  am  doing  well  or  badly;  and 
"doing  well"  does  not  simply  mean  holding  the  attention 



of  the  audience;  it  means  holding  the  attention  o£  the 
audience  while  presenting  and  conveying  the  ideas  I  want 
to  present  and  convey. 

But  how  do  I  know  whether  a  substantial  part  of  the 
audience  is  getting  the  ideas?  It  is  not  by  the  degree  of 
attentiveness.  It  is  something  else,  a  special  sense,  a  mutual 
interpenetration  of  the  audience's  mind  and  mine,  a  radar 
effect  connected,  perhaps,  with  otherwise  not  perceptible 
changes  of  expression  and  posture,  and  perhaps  connected 
with  as  yet  scientifically  undefined  modes  of  communica- 
tion between  persons  face  to  face.  When  I  feel  that  I  am 
not  getting  the  idea  across,  I  change  the  line  quickly, 
choose  another  approach,  start  with  a  new  supporting 
anecdote,  quotation,  recent  event,  historical  parallel.  Bib- 
lical allusion.  I  must  add  that  getting  an  idea  across  does 
not  mean  getting  it  accepted.  The  satisfaction  lies  in  being 
understood,  not  in  being  agreed  with. 

There  are  lecturers  who  read  from  a  manuscript  and 
lecturers  who  have  memorized  their  text.  They  belong  to 
another  species;  their  relationship  to  the  personality  of 
their  audience  is  a  mystery  to  me.  Readers  and  reciters  are 
not  lecturers  in  my  book,  nor  are  political  and  religious 
orators;  nor  does  the  word  apply  to  writers  who  take  to 
the  platform  for  a  killing  in  the  wake  of  a  successful  book, 
or  to  explorers  just  returned  from  a  mountain  peak  or  an 
ocean  crevasse. 

Next  to  the  illusion  of  an  inspired  writing  spell,  I  know 
of  no  higher  pleasure  than  to  stand  before  an  audience  and 
get  into  a  streak  when  speech  comes  easily,  the  phrases  are 
right,  the  quotations  hit  home,  the  thesis  unfolds  clearly 
and  logically,  and  the  audience  follows;  the  highest  point 
is  reached  when  I  suddenly  perceive  a  novel  way  of  pre- 
senting the  material  and  exploit  it  successfully.  Corres- 
pondingly,  a  botched  lecture  fills  me  with  the  acutest 


misery.  There  are  times  when  I  fail  to  take  hold  of  an 
audience;  for  all  the  echo  reaching  me,  I  might  as  well  be 
talking  into  a  barrel  of  sawdust.  Or,  taking  hold  of  the 
audience,  I  fail  to  develop  the  thesis,  I  produce  only  an 
approximation  and  leave  an  impression  tangential  to  my 
intentions.  The  audience  may  be  attentive,  it  may  be 
working  with  me,  it  may  applaud  heartily  at  the  end,  but 
I  am  filled  with  disgust  at  my  ineptitude. 

Sometimes  I  get  off  to  a  bad  start,  and  the  fault  may 
not  be  wholly  mine.  The  chairman  has  been  prolix  and 
foolish,  the  audience  has  lost  its  cohesion,  and  my  stored-up 
initial  momentum  is  dissipated.  This  handicap  can  be  best 
overcome  by  rebuking  the  chairman;  the  audience  is 
pulled  together  by  the  authoritative  gesture  and  I  have 
worked  off  my  resentment.  But  this  corrective  can  backfire 
in  unexpected  ways.  I  lectured  once  in  Bloemfontein, 
South  Africa,  on  Arab-Jewish  relations.  My  chairman  was 
a  Rabbi  Rohm,  who  introduced  me  for  thirty-two  minutes 
in  a  lecture  of  his  own  on  the  same  subject.  When  I  got 
the  floor,  I  asked  to  be  forgiven  for  saying  that  I  had  been 
burning  while  Rohm  was  fiddling.  The  audience  didn't 
get  over  it,  and  every  few  minutes  throughout  the  lecture 
a  chuckle  would  break  out  and  spread  from  row  to  row. 
Sometimes  the  audience  cannot  settle  down;  private  con- 
versations spring  up;  I  let  them  go  on  for  a  minute  or 
two,  then  point  my  finger  at  the  culprits  and  ask  them 
either  to  behave  or  leave  the  hall.  A  latecomer  will  enter 
at  the  back  and  start  walking  ostentatiously  to  the  front; 
it  is  usually  a  lady  wearing  high  heels,  and  the  impudent 
tap-tap  echoes  from  wall  to  wall,  making  heads  turn  auto- 
matically. I  break  off  to  say:  "If  you  can't  hear  well,  or 
are  shortsighted,  come  early."  Shmarya  Levin's  rule  was: 
A  lecturer  must  treat  his  audience  with  respect,  and  vice 
versa.  I  was  at  a  meeting  with  him  when  a  young  woman 



in  the  front  row  began  to  chew  gum  audibly  while  she 
stared  up  at  him.  Levin  leaned  over  and  said  icily: 
"Madam,  swallow  the  damn  thing  or  spit  it  out."  I  cannot 
remember  which  she  did,  if  either,  but  she  stopped  chew- 

Getting  and  holding  the  attention  of  an  audience  is 
only  the  first  step;  the  second,  without  which  the  first  is 
pointless,  is  to  make  creative  use  of  its  attention.  A  lec- 
turer must  have,  for  each  occasion,  and  at  his  fingertips, 
ten  times  as  much  material  as  he  needs  for  his  purpose.  He 
must  be  able  to  pick  and  choose  according  to  the  response 
he  is  getting.  Even  so,  addressing  seventy  or  eighty  audi- 
ences a  year,  he  is  in  danger  of  growing  stale  to  himself 
and  therefore  listless  toward  his  audience.  Repetition  is 
inevitable,  but  the  varieties  of  combinations  and  their 
improvisation  help  to  keep  him  fresh.  And  there  is  al- 
ways the  windfall,  the  unexpected  new  vista  of  exposi- 
tion which  opens  up  right  in  the  middle  of  the  lecture. 
It  has  its  dangers,  of  course;  you  adjust  quickly  to  make 
room  for  it,  perhaps  to  discover  that  it  has  led  you  astray. 
You  remember  an  important  point  you  were  about  to 
make  when  the  visitation  interrupted,  but  you  must  not 
go  back;  you  must  wait  for  an  opportunity  in  the  question 
and  answer  period.  Shmarya  Levin  used  to  say:  "Going 
back  on  a  deal  is  poor  business  practice,  going  back  to  a 
lost  point  is  poor  lecture  practice." 

It  may  seem  unnecessary  to  add  that  one  must  be  abso- 
lutely honest  with  an  audience,  but  many  lecturers  think 
they  are  honest  enough  if  they  do  not  quote  unreliable 
statistics  or  repeat  as  fact  what  they  have  heard  as  rumor. 
Honesty  demands  that  you  never  offer  a  plausible  argu- 
ment hoping  that  no  one  in  the  audience  knows  the  effec- 
tive counterargument.  It  is  dishonest  to  shrink  from  the 
prospect  of  a  hostile  reaction,  or  to  veil  your  convictions 



in  deprecatory  language,  or  to  ingratiate  yourself  by  turn- 
ing folksy.  These  are  the  devices  of  the  politician  and  the 
orator,  not  of  the  lecturer. 

Like  Gaul  and  Mr.  Schiff,  my  average  audience  is  com- 
posed of  three  parts;  an  informed  and  sophisticated  core, 
an  intelligent  receptive  mass,  and  a  small  nondescript 
periphery — harmless  people  with  minds  as  difficult  to 
locate  as  the  whereabouts  of  an  electron.  For  these  last, 
attendance  at  a  Jewish  affair  is  an  act  of  piety,  a  gesture 
toward  the  higher  life.  I  can  always  identify  them  by  their 
eagerness  to  thank  me  at  the  close  of  the  evening.  They  are 
given  to  protracted  handshakes  with  a  pumphandling  or 
rotatory  motion  or  a  complicated  grip  like  a  lodge  signal. 
Their  congratulations  are  warm  and  undiscriminating: 
"Mr.  Samuels" — it  is  never  Samuel — "you  were  absolutely 
marvelous.  Last  month  we  had  a  man  who  did  card  tricks. 
He  was  very  good  too."  They  expect  to  be  remembered 
on  the  slenderest  grounds.  "Mr.  Samuels,  don't  you  recog- 
nize me?  I  was  at  your  lecture  in  Knoxville  twenty-five 
years  ago."  When  I  shake  my  head  regretfully,  they  add: 
"It  was  a  very  rainy  evening." 

For  most  lecturers  the  question  and  answer  period  is  a 
sort  of  afterbirth,  to  be  disposed  of  quickly  and  hygienically; 
for  me  it  is  the  climax  of  the  evening,  and  I  make  it  as  long 
as  possible.  It  is  during  this  period  that  I  check  on  my  in- 
tuitions, and  it  is  during  this  period,  too,  that  I  learn  some- 
thing of  what  is  going  on  in  the  mind  of  American  Jewry, 
or  at  least  a  certain  sector  of  it.  A  thousand  questions 
directed  at  me  every  year  by  audiences  drawn  from  the  most 
varied  communities  constitue  a  Gallup  poll  in  reverse;  and 
the  changes  in  the  type  of  question  over  a  period  of  nearly 
fifty  years  build  up  a  skeleton  history  of  Jewish  public 

I  prefer  the  spoken  to  the  written  question;  I  like  to  see 



the  questioner,  it  helps  me  to  understand  him,  and  I  will 
take  the  risk  that  he  will  want  to  outline  his  autobiography. 
Sometimes  the  questioner  flounders  about;  I  have  to  guess 
at  what  is  troubling  him  and  find  the  words  for  it;  it  is 
pleasant  to  see  his  face  light  up  when  I  succeed.  I  do  not 
mind  delivering  five  or  six  capsule  lectures  on  top  of  the 
main  lecture  if  the  questions  touch  on  important  issues,  the 
less  so  as  they  help  me  to  bring  up  the  good  point  I  lost 
while  chasing  the  new  insight. 

Some  of  the  questions  are  merely  silly,  some  simple  and 
factual,  and  a  few  unfathomable.  After  a  lecture  on  the 
character  of  Bloom  in  Joyce's  Ulysses  I  was  asked:  "Mr. 
Samuel,  are  you  in  favor  of  human  nature?"  and  after  a 
lecture  on  Sholom  Aleichem,  whether  I  was  in  favor  of 
vivisection.  Late  in  the  night  after  the  Sholom  Aleichem 
lecture  I  recalled  having  used  some  phrase  like  "dissection 
of  human  beings,"  but  I  never  established  a  connection  for 
the  first  question.  There  need  not  have  been  any;  my  ques- 
tioner no  doubt  belonged  to  the  small  army  of  amiable 
cranks  who  haunt  meetings  in  order  to  put  in  a  word  on 
vegetarianism,  free  love,  Esperanto,  faith  healing,  Bahaiism, 
moral  rearmament.  Yoga,  spiritualism  and  kindness  to  ani- 
mals; they  form  part  of  the  periphery.  The  pest  questioner 
is  in  a  tiny  class  by  himself;  he  attends  every  lecture  and  al- 
ways has  a  question.  He  betrays  himself  the  moment  he 
opens  his  mouth  by  the  pitch  of  his  voice,  which  for  some 
reason  is  half  an  octave  or  so  higher  than  the  average;  the 
practiced  lecturer  can  also  identify  him  in  advance  by  the 
dismay  of  the  audience,  which  vents  itself  in  a  groan  of 
resignation  at  the  sight  of  him. 

The  loquaciously  hostile  questioner  who  wants  to  debate 
the  issue  with  you  from  beginning  to  end  must  be  disposed 
of  decisively  the  moment  he  stops  to  catch  his  breath.  An 
anti-Zionist  rabbi  named  Foster  rose  after  one  of  my  ad- 



dresses  in  Newark  and  began  to  deliver  himself  on  the  in- 
advisability,  impossibility,  and  un- Americanism  of  creating 
a  Jewish  state  in  Palestine.  At  the  first  opportunity  I  slipped 
in  the  remark:  "Sir,  do  not  worry;  the  Jewish  homeland 
will  be  built  by  the  children  of  Israel,  not  the  foster-chil- 
dren." After  that  the  audience  was  deaf  to  him.  In  1928, 
speaking  on  the  Arab-Jewish  problem,  I  found  the  same 
gentleman  in  my  audience.  I  have  referred,  in  telling  of 
my  last  meeting  with  my  old  Rebbe,  to  the  anti-Jewish  riots 
which  swept  over  Palestine  in  the  fall  of  that  year.  The 
Haganah,  or  defense  army,  then  clandestine,  was  in  its  prim- 
itive stage,  and  over  a  hundred  and  fifty  men,  women,  and 
children  were  killed  and  thousands  wounded  before  the 
British  restored  order.  Even  the  anti-Zionist  Jewish  Com- 
munists of  America,  caught  off  guard,  joined  in  the  world- 
wide protests  until  they  were  ordered  by  Moscow  to  reverse 
their  position,  which  they  did  with  that  bland  and  unembar- 
rassed celerity  which  is,  or  used  to  be,  such  an  engaging 
feature  of  dedicated  Communism.  Rabbi  Foster  put  his 
question  briefly  this  time:  "Mr.  Samuel,  what  would  you 
do  if  you  were  an  Arab?"  I  counter-questioned:  "Rabbi 
Foster,  what  would  you  do  if  you  were  a  Jew?" 

Oddities  remain  imbedded  in  my  memory,  freak  inci- 
dents, incongruities  that  are  a  joy  forever,  incredibilities 
that  startle  me  afresh  whenever  I  think  of  them — somewhat 
as  if  I  had  heard  the  train  announcer  at  Grand  Central  say 
distinctly:  "The  Goddam  five-twenty-five  for  Bridgeport 
is  now  ready  on  track  nineteen."  The  first  prize  belongs  to 
a  1933  meeting.  At  that  time,  world  Jewry  was  divided  on 
the  issue  of  Jewish  colonization  in  Russia.  Most  Zionists 
correctly  saw  in  it  nothing  more  than  a  device  to  divert 
Jewish  funds  to  Russia;  but  some  of  them  were  taken  in  and 
one  of  them  challenged  me  earnestly:  "Mr.  Samuel,  don't 
you  think  it's  better  to  give  relief  to  Jews  wherever  they 



need  it  until  we  can  build  the  homeland  and  all  go  and  re- 
lieve ourselves  there?"  The  atmosphere  was  so  serious,  the 
turn  of  phrase  so  unexpected,  that  the  audience  was  par- 
alyzed. In  a  similar  stoniness  an  audience  once  heard  me 
commit  a  ghastly  spoonerism  in  a  metaphor  which  intended 
to  refer  to  a  piston  pushing.  In  spite  of  the  sudden  chill  at 
my  heart,  I  had  the  presence  of  mind  to  hurry  on  without 
correcting  myself,  thus  creating  a  doubt  in  the  minds  of  my 
listeners.  I  do  not  know  whether  it  was  incredulity  or  cour- 
tesy which  prevented  the  audience  from  bursting  into  a 
shout  of  laughter  when  I  was  introduced  at  a  meeting  in  the 
Bronx,  where  I  was  then  living,  in  the  following  terms: 
"We  have  with  us  tonight  Mr.  Maurice  Samuel,  who  is  well 
known  throughout  America  and  in  the  Bronx  as  well.  As 
the  chairman  of  this  evening,  I  will  not  bore  you  for  long, 
since  we  have  brought  Mr.  Samuel  here  for  that  purpose." 
This  story  has  become  something  of  a  legend,  and  has  been 
attached  to  various  speakers,  but  unless  my  chairman  of  that 
evening  reinvented  the  gem — he  was  too  kindly  and  un- 
sophisticated a  man  to  have  been  quoting — I  claim  it  as 
part  of  my  saga. 

An  introduction  is  not,  or  should  not  be,  an  idle  and 
hasty  formality;  its  function,  difficult  and  responsible,  is 
to  pull  the  audience  together  and  dispose  it  to  listen.  It 
should  be  neither  too  long  nor  too  short,  neither  fulsome 
nor  dry,  neither  facetious  nor  pompous.  It  must  contain 
mention  of  the  subject  and  some  polite  remarks  on  the 
lecturer's  qualifications  for  dealing  with  it.  A  nervous 
chairman  infects  the  audience,  and  precious  minutes  are 
lost  before  it  regains  its  composure.  If  the  chairman  has 
been  chosen  as  a  reward  for  various  services  but  happens 
to  know  nothing  about  the  subject  or  the  lecture,  he  should 
confine  himself  to  reading  the  introduction  furnished  by 
the  lecture  bureau.  Had  this  rule  always  been  followed, 



one  flustered  lady  would  not  have  introduced  me  as  Mr. 
Furtlewanger  because  the  late  Lion  Feuchtwanger  had 
addressed  the  organization  the  previous  month,  and  an- 
other as  Sholom  Aleichem  because  I  had  written  a  book 
about  him. 

The  most  difficult  part  of  an  evening  comes  when,  being 
at  leisure  and  glad  to  engage  in  conversation  even  after  a 
two-hour  stretch  on  the  platform,  I  am  buttonholed  by  the 
wrong  people.  Some  have  private  grievances  against  the 
organization  or  the  community  leadership  and  want  me 
to  adjudicate  in  their  favor;  others  want  to  tell  me  of  a 
long  and  complicated  personal  experience  which  bears 
out  or  disapproves  part  of  my  thesis;  and  there  are  those 
who  ask:  "Mr.  Samuel,  do  you  really  believe"  something 
or  other  I  said  in  the  course  of  the  lecture,  as  if  they  ex- 
pected me  to  confess  that  I  had  only  been  fooling.  But 
some  are  troubled  by  serious  questions  which  they  were 
too  shy  to  ask  in  public,  and  these  are  among  my  best 

The  change  in  the  character  of  my  audiences,  and  in  the 
matters  which  interest  them,  is,  as  I  have  hinted,  a  com- 
mentary on  Jewish  development  in  this  country  over  the 
last  half  century.  It  is  also  an  indicator  of  general  changes. 
It  goes  without  saying  that  the  immigrant  element  has 
largely  disappeared;  those  that  come  to  hear  me  are  eighty 
to  ninety  per  cent  American-born,  more  than  half  of  them 
of  American-born  parents.  One  curious  result  has  been 
the  almost  total  disappearance  of  a  perplexity  that  used 
to  haunt  my  audiences  thirty  and  forty  and  fifty  years  ago. 
It  went  under  the  name  of  "dual  allegiance."  Was  it  pos- 
sible to  be  a  "good  American"  with  half  one's  heart  at- 
tached to  the  idea  of  a  Jewish  homeland  in  Palestine?  The 
question  is  still  put  here  and  there,  but  it  emanates  from 
a  small,   identifiable,   extremist  assimilationist   minority. 



The  more  American  the  Jews  have  become,  the  more 
natural  does  it  seem  to  them  to  be,  if  not  ideological 
Zionists,  vigorous  supporters  o£  the  State  of  Israel.  It  is 
not  only  that  the  timidity  of  the  newcomers  has  dissolved 
in  the  tacit  Americanism  of  their  descendants;  it  is  also 
that  America  herself  has  lost  a  good  deal  of  her  provincial- 
ism. The  growing  consciousness  of  the  fateful  world  role 
which  has  devolved  on  her  makes  her  sympathetic  to  the 
value  of  additional  attachments,  (I  avoid  the  word  "al- 
legiance" because  it  is  part  of  a  loaded  formula.)  "Amer- 
icanism" loses  all  contemporaneous  meaning  unless  it  is 
hyphenated  with  "One-Worldism,"  and  One-Worldism 
finds  encourasfement  in  emotional  and  cultural  bonds 
with  other  peoples;  there  cannot,  in  my  opinion,  be  too 
many  of  them,  for  America's  good  and  the  world's.  Certainly 
these  double  or  multiple  affections  (I  myself  feel  strong 
ties  to  England  and  France)  will  create  problems  occasion- 
ally, but  how  can  the  great  transition  which  is  now  man- 
kind's imperative  be  made  without  problems? 

The  transition  is  to  something  far  more  significant  than 
a  state  of  guaranteed  peace.  Beyond  the  danger  of  human 
self-annihilation  lies  the  danger,  less  spectacularly  hor- 
rifying but  hardly  less  horrible  to  contemplate,  of  the  an- 
nihilation of  the  human  self,  the  gradual  disappearance  of 
those  human  group  differentiations  in  which  a  self  is 
rooted.  In  the  introduction  to  Teilhard  de  Chardin's  The 
Phenomenon  of  Man,  Julian  Huxley  speaks  of  the  ten- 
dency, emerging  from  technological  progress,  "which 
might  destroy  the  effects  of  cultural  diversification  and 
lead  to  a  drab  uniformity  instead  of  to  a  rich  and  potent 
pattern  of  variety  in  unity."  Before  us  looms  the  spectre 
of  a  planet  inhabited  by  six  or  ten  or  fifteen  billion  no- 
bodies-in-particular (and  why  we  should  consider  it  an 
achievement  to  infect  distant  planets  with  such  biological 
specimens  is  beyond  me). 



The  recoil  in  American  Jewry  from  an  earlier  melting- 
pot  theory  of  assimilation  is  in  part  a  response  to  the  threat 
of  depersonalization.  It  is  mixed  with  other  factors;  the  ex- 
termination of  six  million  Jews  and  the  birth  of  the 
State  of  Israel  have  left  deep  psychological  effects;  and  the 
general  American  movement  toward  religious  affiliation, 
often — and  more  or  less  correctly — characterized  as  a 
purely  social  phenomenon,  has  set  up  a  kind  of  machinery 
for  Jewish  self-recovery.  But  it  is  quite  wrong  to  stop  at 
these  factors.  The  young  Jewish  physicists,  chemists,  mathe- 
maticians, engineers  (I  have  met  hundreds  of  them)  who 
find  they  have  to  provide  some  Jewish  instruction  for  their 
children,  and  join  a  temple  or  a  synagogue  for  that  reason, 
are  often  puzzled  at  themselves.  "Look,"  they  expostulate, 
as  if  anxious  to  disassociate  themselves  at  once  from  their 
superstitious  grandfathers,  "look,  I'm  beyond  that  sort  of 
thing,  but  I  want  my  son  at  least  to  know  who  he  is."  I 
mention  the  scientists  because  it  is  presumably  the  scientific 
outlook  which  is  most  intelligently  (or  should  I  just  say 
articulately)  at  odds  with  the  notion  of  Jewish  affiliation; 
also  because  among  them  one  might  expect  a  certain 
amount  of  clear  thinking  on  the  subject.  I  probe  and  find 
confusion.  I  ask:  "Can't  your  son  be  a  Presbyterian  and 
know  who  he  is?"  They  answer:  "I  don't  believe  in  any 
religion,  but  if  my  son  has  to  get  a  certain  amount  of 
religion  to  know  who  he  is,  at  least  let  it  be  Jewish."  I 
continue:  "But  why  on  earth  do  you  want  him  to  know 
that  he  is  a  Jew?"  Sometimes  they  answer:  "Better  for 
him  to  find  it  out  from  me  than  from  an  anti-Semite"; 
sometimes:  "A  man  shouldn't  be  ashamed  of  his  origins"; 
and  sometimes:  "Well,  if  he  isn't  a  Jew,  what  is  he?" 

Now,  this  concern  with  the  child's  need  for  self-iden- 
tification is  genuine,  and  the  answers  have  meaning  for  the 
speaker,  on  one  level  or  another;  what  the  parents  often  do 
not  perceive  is  that  they,  finding  themselves  the  begetters 



of  a  new  generation,  are  urgently  in  search  of  their  own 
self-identification.  The  unformulated  anxiety  runs:  "We've 
got  children!  What  shall  we  tell  them  about  ourselves? 
And,  for  that  matter,  who  are  we?" 

The  spiritual  confusion  of  the  physicist,  mathematician, 
etc.,  is  not  different  from  that  of  the  doctor  or  lawyer  in 
the  same  predicament,  or,  given  a  certain  level  of  intel- 
ligence, of  the  plumber  or  pantsmaker.  It  begins  with  a 
misconception  in  the  religious  field.  A  member  of  an 
audience  once  said  to  me:  "As  a  physicist  I  do  not  believe 
in  the  existence  of  God.  I  know  that  things  take  place 
in  accordance  with  unchangeable  laws.  In  years  of  ex- 
perimentation I  have  never  come  across  an  instance  of 
interference  with  those  laws  by  an  outside  power."  I  com- 
mented: "You  seem  to  be  under  the  impression  that  only 
a  physicist,  or  a  scientist  generally,  is  aware  of  the  inexor- 
ability and  inviolability  of  the  natural  laws  of  cause  and 
effect.  But  a  pantsmaker,  too,  has  the  right  to  say:  'As  a 
pantsmaker  I  do  not  believe  in  the  existence  of  God.  I 
know  that  in  the  making  of  a  pair  of  pants  there  are  in- 
exorable and  inviolable  laws  of  cause  and  effect,  and  in 
all  the  years  of  my  pantsmaking  I  have  not  come  across  a 
single  instance  of  interference  with  these  laws  by  an  out- 
side power.  Never,  never,  in  the  making  of  thousands 
of  pairs  of  pants  have  I  seen  a  single  pair  come  out  right 
if  the  cutting  was  wrong.'  His  scientific  experience  hasn't 
the  range  and  subtlety  of  yours,  but  it  is  as  decisive." 

Belief  in  God  does  not  by  itself  make  a  Jew,  just  as 
calling  oneself  an  atheist  does  not  make  one  an  atheist 
(the  intellectual  discipline  of  atheism  is  extremely  exact- 
ing). The  Jew  who  thinks  himself  an  atheist  and,  looking 
for  self-identification,  can  find  it  only  in  the  Jewish  people, 
relies  on  the  fact  that  Jewishness,  unlike  Christianity,  re- 
gards peoplehood  as  an  expression  of  religion.  And  people- 



hood  does  not  mean  nationality  or  nationalism;  it  means 
a  group-cultural  personality  within  which  the  individual 
comes  to  birth,  and  this  in  turn  means  being  rooted  in 
the  culture. 

But  by  a  certain  age — say  the  late  twenties  or  early 
thirties — much  exertion  is  needed  to  send  down  new  roots 
or  to  reactivate  old  ones  that  have  withered.  Usually  some- 
thing is  still  there,  and  not  only  because  of  reminders  from 
the  outside,  a  personal  experience,  an  overheard  jibe,  ex- 
clusion from  certain  areas  of  employment;  something  be- 
yond the  fact  that  Jews  habitually  consort  with  Jews; 
something  that  nags  quietly,  or  starts  suddenly  to  life 
without  apparent  provocation,  a  regret,  a  sense  of  self-alien- 
ation and  self-devaluation,  an  obscure  perception  of  some 
kind  of  impiety.  The  something  that  is  still  there  is  also 
felt,  often  enough,  as  a  confounded  nuisance:  "I  didn't 
ask  for  it!  I  refuse  to  let  myself  be  pestered  by  it.  To  hell 
with  the  past."  Hence  an  ambivalence  of  attitude,  a  simul- 
taneous hankering  and  resentment,  respect  and  derision. 
"The  Jews,  Jewishness — you  can't  just  wave  it  away;  the 
Jews,  Jewishness,  just  a  lot  of  antiquated  rubbish." 

Thus,  a  popular  Jewish  woman  novelist  opens  her  auto- 
biography with:  "All  my  life  I  have  been  inordinately 
proud  of  being  a  Jew,"  and  some  fifty  pages  farther  on 
explains:  "It  has  always  been  my  contention  that  the  Jew, 
left  in  peace  for  two  hundred  years  throughout  the  world, 
would  lose  his  aggressiveness,  his  tenacity,  his  neurotic 
ambition,  would  be  completely  absorbed  and  vanish,  as 
a  type,  from  the  face  of  the  earth."  Now,  surely  the  lady 
cannot  be  "proud"  of  these  Jewish  characteristics,  and 
surely  she  must  look  forward  to  the  day  when  a  world 
purified  of  hatreds  will  permit  this  somewhat  repellent 
type  to  disappear.  But  no,  what  she  is  proud  of  in  her 
Jewishness  is  the  noble  sentiment  she  quotes  from  the 



Bible  as  the  motto  of  her  book:  "Now,  therefore,  if  ye 
will  obey  My  voice,  and  keep  My  covenant,  then  ye  shall 
be  a  peculiar  treasure  unto  Me,  above  all  peoples;  for 
all  the  earth  is  Mine  and  ye  shall  be  unto  Me  a  kingdom 
of  priests  and  a  holy  nation."  On  the  other  hand,  it  appears 
from  her  account  that  if  the  Jews  have  in  some  slight  de- 
gree approximated  to  this  lofty  ideal,  they  owe  less  to 
God  and  the  Prophets  than  to  certain  questionable  histor- 
ical characters:  "For  centuries  we  have  been  kept  from 
complete  absorption  or  utter  oblivion  by  such  fanatics 
and  megalomaniacs  as  a  Pharaoh,  Ivan  of  Russia,  or  Philip 
of  France,  or  Edward  the  First,  of  England  .  .  .  Adolf  Hitler 
has  done  more  to  solidify  and  spiritualize  the  Jews  of  the 
world  than  any  man  since  Moses." 

Novels  which  depict  Judaism  or  Jewishness  as  nothing 
more  than  a  persistent  historical  trauma,  and  the  Jewish 
people  as  the  locale  of  a  baffling  non-filterable  virus  called 
anti-Semitism  which  has  the  curious  faculty  of  keeping 
the  host  organism  alive  for  centuries,  are  very  popular 
with  Jews  engaged  in  the  struggle  for  self-recovery;  they 
find  there  relief  for  one  side  of  their  ambivalence.  What- 
ever my  subject  at  a  lecture,  I  am  sure  to  be  asked  for  my 
opinion  of  such  books  while  their  brief  and  lucrative 
season  is  on;  and  since  I  consider  it  my  duty  to  have  an 
answer,  I  must,  like  the  reader  for  the  Catholic  Index, 
regularly  imperil  my  soul,  or  my  sanity,  for  the  benefit 
of  my  audiences. 

I  also  imperil  my  soul  occasionally  by  the  intemperate- 
ness  of  my  comments;  but  what  other  kind  of  comment  can 
one  make  on  the  following  piece  of  advice,  which  another 
Jewish  novelist  puts  into  the  mouth  of  one  of  his  sym- 
pathetic Jewish  characters:  "What  you're  afraid  of,  George 
[a  fellow-Jew]  is  the  world  of  the  Gentiles.  Somewhere, 
God  alone  knows  the  location,  you've  picked  up  and  be- 



lieve  the  same  notions  about  Gentiles  that  so  many  Gentiles 
have  about  Jews.  That  they're  creatures  of  another  planet, 
with  cloven  hoofs  and  spiked  tails  and  a  passion  for  drink- 
ing human  blood.  [My  italics]."  The  author  does  not  know 
where  on  earth  some  Jews  have  picked  up  these  monstrous 
beliefs  about  gentiles!  It  is  for  him  no  miracle  that  when 
the  concentration  camps  opened  they  did  not  let  out  on 
the  world  a  horde  of  lunatic  survivors.  It  surprises  him 
that  even  among  those  who  have  only  learned  something 
about  the  camps  there  should  occur  occasional  delusions 
(!)  of  persecution.  One  must  assume  that  this  is  his  attitude, 
for  a  proper  comment  on  the  hideously  coarse  statement 
I  have  quoted  occurs  nowhere  in  the  novel.  There  isn't  a 
Jew  or  gentile  in  it  with  intelligence  enough  to  make  it. 
And  how  ingeniously  he  turns  the  tables — "that  so  many 
Gentiles  have  about  the  Jews.  .  ."  Jewry  and  Christendom 
are  even-stephen.  Gentiles  misunderstand  Jews,  Jews  mis- 
understand gentiles;  there  is  an  unfortunate  mutuality  of 
self-perpetuating  misunderstanding  without  a  basic  cause 
on  either  side.  The  crowning  touch  is  "the  passion  for 
drinking  human  blood."  The  author  might  have  spared 
us  this  oblique  reference  to  the  ritual  blood  libel,  so  often 
thrown  by  Christians  at  Jews  but  never  by  Jews  at  Chris- 
tians. He  might,  in  order  to  fill  out  the  picture  with  the 
honesty  expected  of  a  novelist,  have  had  someone  say: 
"Yes,  I  know,  George,  certain  terrible  things  have  haj> 
pened  over  the  centuries,  and  recently,  too;  all  the 
same  .  .  ."  No,  instead  he  has  another  perceptive  Jew  ad- 
monish George:  "Don't  hide.  Don't  dig  a  hole  for  your- 
self .  .  .  Do  what  your  heart  tells  you,  not  your  religion. 
It's  more  important  to  be  a  man  than  a  Jew."  It  appears 
that,  for  the  author,  "Jew"  and  "man"  are  in  some  way 

The  recurrent  impulse  to  get  rid,   somehow,   of  this 



burden  of  Jewish  identity,  and  the  endless,  banal  discus- 
sion of  it,  are  often  characteristic  of  Jews  who  are  funda- 
mentally attached  to  Jewishness.  Perhaps  it  is  only  a 
particular  form  of  the  longing  that  all  human  beings  oc- 
casionally experience  to  be  someone  else  for  a  change.  So 
I  am  frequently  asked:  "Can't  we  assimilate?"  and  I 
answer:  "Some  of  us  certainly  can,  and  do,  but  you  must 
not  make  a  programmatic  thing  of  it;  that  would  be  like 
screaming  at  people:  'Relax!'  " 

Some  years  ago  an  "ex-Jew"  wrote  an  article  in  The  At- 
lantic Monthly,  describing  how,  by  the  exercise  of  the 
proper  tact,  ingenuity,  and  determination,  he  had  managed 
to  "pass"  completely.  He  wrote  under  a  pseudonym,  of 
course — otherwise  he  would  have  ruined  his  life's  work — 
and  offered  himself  as  proof  conclusive  that  "it  can  be 
done";  and  Jews  who  complain  that  the  gentile  world 
won't  let  them  assimilate  are  deceiving  themselves;  it  is 
their  own  clannishness  or  self-assertiveness  that  stands  in 
the  way.  No  one,  he  reported,  but  no  one  except  himself 
now  knew  him  as  an  ex-Jew;  and  he  advised  Jews  at  large 
to  follow  his  example. 

I  was  surprised  by  the  number  of  Jews  who  read  the 
article  and  wanted  to  know  what  I  thought  of  it;  there 
must  have  been  quite  a  run  on  that  issue.  I  pointed  out  to 
my  questioners  that  in  addition  to  the  particular  qualifica- 
tions which  enabled  the  "ex-Jew"  to  carry  out  his  far- 
sighted  plan,  he  had  to  thank  that  vast  majority  of  Jews 
who  lacked  both  his  qualifications  and  his  ambition.  It  is 
obvious  that  if  all  the  Jews  of  America  were  to  make  a 
concerted  attempt  to  "disappear,"  the  country  would  be 
set  by  the  ears,  and  the  more  widespread  the  attempt,  the 
fewer,  in  the  final  account,  would  be  the  instances  of  suc- 
cess. Let  us  imagine  the  courts  of  New  York,  Philadelphia, 
Boston,  Cleveland,  Chicago,  and   Los  Angeles  suddenly 



flooded  with  petitions  for  change  of  name — in  most  in- 
stances the  first  prerequisite;  let  us  then  imagine  a  miracu- 
lously rapid  and  uniform  favorable  disposal  of  all  the 
cases;  then  let  us  imagine  the  disappearance  of  the  serried 
columns  of  Cohens,  Caplans,  Levys,  Horowitzes,  Hurwitzes, 
Samuels,  and  Slomowitzes  from  the  telephone  books.  What 
a  hue  and  cry  there  would  be,  here  and  abroad!  "Where 
are  the  Jews  of  America!"  The  political  commentators 
would  be  in  their  element,  propounding  theories:  at  one 
extreme  that  the  Jews  had  gone  underground  in  accordance 
with  the  sinister  plans  outlined  in  The  Protocols  of  the 
Elders  of  Zion;  at  the  other  that  they  had  been  massacred 
in  a  tremendous  and  marvelously  organized  St.  Bartholo- 
mew's night  which  had  not  left  behind  so  much  as  a  single 
corpus  delicti.  (I  ignore  the  various  problems  of  relocation, 
transportation,  and  economic  reintegration:  one  need  only 
think  of  the  chaos  in  the  social  security  offices.) 

What  I  really  held  against  the  "ex-Jew"  was  not  his 
imbecility  but  his  ingratitude.  He  was  like  the  millionaire 
who  earnestly  counsels  the  poor  to  emulate  him  and  repeat 
his  success,  forgetting  that  a  few  people  can  be  million- 
aires precisely  because  other  people,  much  more  numerous, 
cannot.  Those  who  have  the  necessary  combination  of 
ability,  craftiness,  single-mindedness,  imaginativeness, 
avariciousness,  and  love  of  power  (not  to  mention  luck) 
will  become  millionaires  without  his  encouragement; 
others  are  merely  disturbed  from  time  to  time  by  the  re- 
flection: "He's  right!  I  could  have  made  it,  too,"  when  in 
fact  they  haven't  a  dog's  chance,  not  only  because  of  social 
handicaps,  but  because  they  just  aren't  built  that  way. 

"Ex-Jew"  was  built  in  a  certain  way,  and  because  of  it 
he  was  able  to  realize  his  ambition,  though  not  quite  as 
completely  as  he  imagined.  There  was  one  person,  very 
important  to  him,  to  wit,  himself,  who  was  in  on  the  secret. 


and  how  he  took  it  is  not  clear  from  his  statement.  He  may 
have  chuckled  at  the  situation,  thinking  how  he  was  did- 
dling his  neighbors,  the  Jewish  people,  and  history.  He 
may  have  winced  slightly  when  a  good  friend  of  his  made 
an  anti-Semitic  remark — ^say,  something  on  the  order  of: 
"A  Jew  can  try  to  disguise  himself  as  much  as  he  likes, 
but  I  can  tell  one  a  mile  away"  by  some  unpleasant  charac- 
teristic or  other — and  then  laughed  up  his  sleeve:  "Poor 
devil!  He  doesn't  suspect  he's  been  having  one  in  his  home 
for  years."  It  is  possible  that  he  entered  a  mild  demurrer, 
just  to  test  his  feeling  of  security:  "Oh,  I  don't  know  .  .  ." 
I  have  sometimes  wondered  whether  some  of  his  best 
friends  were  Jews;  and  I  have  wondered  what  became  of 
him.  There  is  the  horrid  possibility  that  he  was  exposed 
by  a  chance  encounter,  and  perhaps  even  by  himself — a 
slip  of  the  tongue  at  a  Christmas  Eve  party  where  he  had 
taken  a  drop  too  much  and  was  irresistibly  impelled  to 
hint  at  the  relationship  between  him  and  Jesus,  or,  God 
knows,  in  a  moment  of  unaccountable  revulsion.  But  if  he 
carried  on  successfully  to  the  end,  his  children  would  be 
quite  secure,  assuming,  as  we  must,  that  when  they  asked 
him  about  his  parents  or  other  relatives  he  made  up  some 
cock  and  bull  story.  Or  he  may  have  decided  not  to  risk 
marriage  and  fatherhood.  The  fact  is  that  there  is  no  such 
thing  as  an  assimilated  Jew  any  more  than  there  is  a 
digested  potato.  There  are  only  assimilating  Jews,  and 
they  are  never  absolutely  safe.  One  may  be  second-genera- 
tion baptized,  and  a  United  States  senator  to  boot,  and  a 
granddaughter  will  take  it  into  her  head  to  join  a  kibbutz 
in  Israel. 

Assimilationism  as  an  organized  movement,  with  na- 
tional headquarters,  organs,  slogans,  chapters,  and  chair- 
men, is  an  absurdity  from  the  practical  as  well  as  from  the 
moral  point  of  view.   Pasternak,   himself   a  convert   to 



Christianity,  urges  something  like  it  in  Dr.  Zhivago.  Refer- 
ring to  the  sufferings  of  the  Jewish  people,  he  cries:  "Of 
what  use  is  it  to  anyone,  this  voluntary  martyrdom?  Whom 
does  it  profit?  For  what  purpose  are  those  innocent  old  men 
and  women  and  children,  all  these  subtle,  kind,  humane 
people,  mocked  and  beaten  up  through  the  centuries?  Why 
didn't  the  intellectual  leaders  of  the  Jewish  people  ever  go 
beyond  Weltschmerz  and  ironical  wisdom?  Why  have  they 
not  disbanded  this  army  which  keeps  on  fighting  and  being 
massacred  nobody  knows  for  what?  Why  don't  they  say  to 
them:  'Come  to  your  senses,  stop.  Don't  hold  on  to  your 
identity.  Be  with  all  the  rest.  You  are  the  first  and  best 
Christians  in  the  world.  You  are  the  very  thing  against 
which  you  have  been  turned  by  the  worst  and  weakest 
among  you,'  " 

These  generous  words  about  the  Jewish  people — I  should 
like  to  think  they  are  deserved:  "the  best  Christians  in  the 
world!";  isn't  it  a  bit  overdone? — make  nonsense  of  the 
proposal.  Why  should  David  Gordon,  the  Christianized 
Jew  in  the  novel  (he  is  one  of  the  self-images  of  Pasternak), 
want  the  dissolution  of  so  exalted  an  example?  If  Jewish- 
ness  produces  "the  best  Christians,"  oughtn't  the  world  to 
turn  Jewish?  Which  is  perhaps  what  Jesus,  the  home-grown 
Jew,  intended,  and  Paul,  the  Hellenized  Jew,  could  not 

Assimilation  takes  place  quietly,  more  or  less  simply, 
and  is  a  natural  thing.  Sometimes  I  will  be  invited  by  a 
questioner  to  express  disapproval  of  Jews  who  drift  away, 
intermarry,  and  initiate  the  slow  process  by  which  Jewish 
identity  dissolves.  I  am  unable  to  comply.  A  Jew  has  the 
same  right  to  intermarry  as  an  American  or  an  Englishman 
has  to  emigrate.  All  peoples  regularly  lose  contingents  of 
their  sons  and  daughters;  to  hold  them  by  force  when  they 
have  the  opportunity  and  the  desire  to  leave  is  an  abomi- 


nable  act  of  tyranny,  an  infringement  of  the  basic  right  of 
the  human  being  to  seek  his  happiness  where  he  thinks 
he  can  find  it.  Or  else  I  am  invited  to  express  alarm  at  the 
volume  of  Jewish  assimilation.  Again  I  cannot  oblige;  for 
such  distress  as  I  feel  is  occasioned,  not  by  the  diminution 
of  our  numbers,  but  by  the  insufficiency  of  Jewish  content 
and  Jewish  values  in  that  mass  which  will  persist  with  a 
Jewish  designation  into  all  the  foreseeable  future. 

Jewish  values!  Again  and  again  I  am  asked:  "But  what 
are  those  Jewish  values  you  keep  talking  about?"  and  I 
must  answer  again  and  again  that  one  doesn't  explain  them, 
one  acquires  them  by  a  conscious  effort;  they  are  associated 
with  a  body  of  Jewish  knowledge;  and  that  body  of  Jewish 
knowledge  is  in  turn  associated  with  the  Jewish  view  that 
without  knowledge  there  is  no  Jewishness.  This  is  the 
specific  Jewish  tradition  of  intellectuality,  the  dissipation 
of  which  is  a  loss  to  every  country  with  a  Jewish  commu- 
nity. I  think  sometimes  of  the  role  that  Jews  ought  to  be 
playing  in  America  as  her  intellectual  pacesetters.  We  are 
still,  I  believe,  in  front,  but  only  by  the  momentum  of  the 
past.  Most  of  our  young  intellectuals  are  not  with  us;  their 
children  will  be  strangers  to  the  tradition  which  carried 
their  fathers.  That  is  a  pity,  but  the  loss  is  not  irreparable. 
The  matrix  is  still  here. 

If  the  anti-Jewishness  bias  of  some  writers  does  not 
trouble  me  too  much,  the  pro-Jewishness  of  others  does, 
I  am  referring  to  the  sentimental  books,  novels  or  memoirs, 
which  are  filled  with  exhibitionistic  and  smilinsr  affection 
for  our  recent  ancestry.  "Nothing,"  says  Professor  Herbert 
Muller,  "is  more  undignified  than  a  past  become  quaint," 
Such  books  achieve  the  same  popularity  as  their  opposites 
and  do  more  harm  because  they  purport  to  tell  us  some- 
thing about  Jewishness.  I  had  a  boyhood  friend  in  Man- 
chester, Louis  Golding,  who  grew  up  to  be  that  sort  of 



writer.  When  we  were  youngsters  we  were  very  fond  of 
each  other,  and  his  father,  a  Hebrew  teacher  and  a  sternly 
orthodox  Jew,  used  to  thrash  him  for  frequenting  the  com- 
pany of  a  notorious  apostate  like  me.  In  later  years  Louis 
and  I  developed  a  strong  aversion  toward  each  other's 
books,  and  we  used  to  meet  at  intervals,  in  London  and 
New  York,  to  express  it;  if  the  intervals  were  too  long, 
we  wrote  each  other  abusive  letters  about  each  other's 
latest  productions.  He  died  recently  and  I  miss  him,  be- 
cause I  never  really  lost  my  fondness  for  him.  Besides,  my 
personal  acquaintance  with  other  writers  of  his  type,  where 
it  exists  at  all  (I  don't  move  in  literary  circles),  is  too 
slender  to  provide  me  with  this  outlet.  But  the  type  will 
fade  away  as  immigrant  memories  recede. 

Though  I  am  sure  that  my  lectures  do  no  harm,  I  cannot 
be  sure  that  they  do  any  good.  The  measure  would  lie  in 
the  number  of  people  who  have  been  prompted  by  them 
to  take  up  Jewish  studies.  That  number  is  steadily  in- 
creasing, but  who  knows  if  I  have  had  anything  to  do  with 
it?  Lectures  about  the  value  of  Jewish  culture  can  indeed 
be  samples  of  Jewish  culture,  and  that  is  what  I  try  to  make 
them;  but  if  the  listener  is  content  to  nod  approval  and 
leave  it  at  that,  he  is  like  the  man  who  goes  to  church  or 
synagogue  as  an  expression  of  his  faith  in  the  value  of 
faith,  which  is  a  fair  description  of  much  of  our  con- 
temporaneous religious  revival — and  nothing  new,  at 
that.  Gissing  said  of  the  Victorian  Englishman:  "His  reli- 
gion, strictly  defined,  is  an  ineradicable  belief  in  his  own 
religiousness"  [his  italics].  I  place  in  the  same  category  the 
Jew  who  "believes"  in  Jewishness,  his  own  Jewishness,  and 
makes  no  effort  to  give  it  substance.  From  time  to  time  I 
am  asked  wistfully  why  the  Bible  can't  be  made  as  at- 
tractive as  Bible  movies,  and  why  an  immortal  work  like 
the  Talmud  can't  be  reduced  to  twenty-five  simple  lessons. 



I  have  to  drive  home  the  point  that  these  inane  longings, 
or  rather  velleities,  are  hostile  to  the  very  material,  as  it 
were,  of  Jewishness,  its  specifically  moral-intellectual  dis- 
cipline and  substance. 

In  that  substance  the  spirit  expresses  itself,  having  no 
other  means  of  expression  for  us.  The  One  God  of  whom 
I  get  glimpses  speaks  to  me,  as  a  Jew,  in  that  substance, 
making  it  the  starting  point  and  medium  of  my  perception 
of  the  world,  my  mode  of  entrance  into  it  and  my  identifica- 
tion with  it.  Exactly  when  that  substance,  in  its  earliest 
form,  became  the  heritage  of  the  group  which  evolved  into 
the  Jewish  people,  is  to  me  a  mystery.  I  cannot  accept  as 
literal  the  account  of  Genesis.  I  suggest  that  instead  of  God 
having  spoken  to  Abraham  (or  Aram),  He  put  into  the 
heart  and  mind  of  the  primitive  group,  no  doubt  through 
a  prophetlike  figure,  the  myth  of  His  having  spoken  to 
Abraham.  What  He  is  thus  purported  to  have  said  to 
Abraham  concerning  the  destiny  of  the  group,  namely, 
that  in  it  the  families  of  the  earth  should  be  blessed  (what 
a  mad  notion!),  the  group  accepted  as  the  raison  d'etre  for 
its  existence.  When  did  this  happen?  That,  I  have  said,  is  a 
mystery  to  me,  and  I  cannot  think  it  will  ever  be  resolved. 
But  the  notion  stuck.  It  was  and  is  periodically  repudiated 
and  reasserted,  disregarded  and  renewed  in  ascend- 
ing perception.  The  records  are  superficially  confused,  the 
thematic  consistency  and  continued  clarification  perfectly 
clear.  The  renewal  of  Jewishness  can  take  place  only  in 
these  terms,  and  if  the  re-creation  of  the  State  of  Israel  is 
conceived  in  other  terms,  that  is  (as  certain  ultra-Orthodox 
Jews  assert,  without,  alas,  being  themselves  an  acceptable 
example)  one  of  the  periodic  repudiations.  Either  Israel 
ultimately  helps  the  Jewish  people  to  be  a  world-serving 
community  or  it  is,  however  successful  in  other  respects, 
Jewishly  speaking  a  failure. 



These  are  the  very  high  ideas  I  try  to  infuse  into  some 
of  my  lectures.  They  are  seemingly  so  out  of  kilter  with 
the  ordinary  tenor  of  our  lives  that  one  is  tempted  to  laugh, 
to  dismiss  them  as  so  much  hot  air.  But  either  there  is  God 
and  purpose,  and  then  this  ordinary  tenor,  with  all  its 
failures,  absurdities,  and  shenanigans,  indicates  a  meaning- 
ful direction,  or  else  there  is  neither  God  nor  purpose,  and 
then,  as  I  asked  in  my  youthful  years,  what  difference  does 
it  make  if  we  inflate  ourselves  with  empty  delusions? 


®  310  ® 


i  i 

t  t 

z  .  .  i 

t  Epilogue  of  High  Moments 



.HIS  IS  where  I  intended  to  close  the  book.  As  a  re- 
cord it  has  many  lacunae,  even  in  the  limited  areas  I  have 
chosen.  To  any  reader  who  is  dissatisfied  on  this  score  I 
offer  one  of  Zangwill's  prefaces:  "I  must  apologise  to  the 
critics  for  this  book  not  being  some  other  book,  but  it 
will  not  happen  again,  as  my  next  book  will  be." 

I  must  write  this  epilogue  while  there  is  still  time,  for 
of  late  my  memory  has  developed  an  interesting  four-stage 
trick  no  doubt  familiar  to  others  but  new  to  me.  In  the 
morning  I  suddenly  will  think  of  someone  who  was  quite 
close  to  me  many  years  ago.  The  face,  the  posture,  the 
voice,  the  opinions,  and  other  peculiarities  will  be  as  fresh 
as  if  I  had  just  left  him;  I  know  him  as  well  as  I  know 
myself,  but  for  the  moment  I  can't  think  of  his  name.  But 
precisely  in  that  moment  the  image  fades  out  and  with  it 
the  identity.  I  no  longer  know  who  the  person  was  whose 
name  I  was  trying  to  recall.  Then,  after  an  interval  of 
some  hours,  I  find  myself  saying,  in  the  midst  of  quite 
another  train  of  thought:  "What  was  it  that  I  recalled 
with  such  exasperating  near-completeness  this  morning? 
Was  it  a  person?  A  book?  A  scene?  A  smell?  A  tune?" 
This  question,  too,  fades  out.  Then  suddenly,  at  some 


point  in  the  evening,  I  am  haunted  by  the  recollection  of 
a  frustration.  What  was  it  that  bothered  me  earlier  in  the 
day?  Did  I  have  an  unpleasant  encounter?  Did  I  get  a  bad 
piece  of  news?  Did  I  remember  and  forget  again  a  neglected 
duty?  A  fragment  of  myself  has  slipped  away  from  me.  Is 
it  gone  forever  or  will  it  come  back? 

As  a  rule  it  comes  back.  That  same  night,  or  perhaps  the 
next  day,  or  the  day  after,  and  in  rare  cases  a  week  or  so 
later,  a  reverse  process  sets  in,  beginning  with  the  last  and 
unidentified  frustration;  and  once  it  begins,  it  is  very 
rapid,  almost  instantaneous.  "Good  heavens!  It  had  to  do 
with  a  memory!  It  did  not  occur  to  me  there  and  then  ex- 
cept as  a  memory.  A  person,  a  voice,  a  posture — all  un- 
mistakable— there  they  are!  It  is  he!"  The  momentum 
carries  me  past  the  dead  point  and  I  triumphantly  call 
out  the  name,  to  the  surprise  of  anyone  in  whose  company 
I  happen  to  be. 

Incidents,  too,  and  whole  chains  of  incidents  out  of  my 
far-off  past  can  thus  play  hide  and  seek  with  me.  A  place 
swims  up  in  my  mind;  it  is  important  because  of  what 
happened  to  me  there.  What  place?  I  was  looking  at  it  a 
moment  ago,  and  I  cannot  conjure  it  back  by  a  direct 
effort.  I  must  wait  until  something  sets  off  the  reverse  proc- 
ess, and  that  something  is  invariably  hidden  from  me.  If 
it  is  an  external  object,  like  Proust's  little  cake  dipped  in 
tea,  or  the  wobbly  flagstone  under  his  foot,  I  am  unaware 
of  it.  It  seems  that,  without  prompting  from  me,  the  un- 
reachable part  of  my  mind  has  all  the  time  been  diligently 
at  work,  exploring  the  labyrinths,  running  up  blind  alleys, 
returning,  scurrying  this  way  and  that,  until  it  has  found 
the  episode  in  its  niche,  all  of  the  episode,  in  all  of  its 
detail,  beautifully  immediate  and  alive. 

This  little  inner  drama  of  death  and  resurrection,  silent 
and  fragmented,  will  often  use  as  its  prologue  a  person 


I  have  known  only  fleetingly,  someone  who  has  etched  him- 
self into  my  memory  in  connection  with  a  large  experience 
of  which  he  has  become  one  of  the  symbols.  Such,  I  have 
indicated,  are  certain  men  and  women  I  met  in  Vilna; 
such,  also,  was  a  young  Englishman  I  happened  to  recall 
a  few  days  ago,  remembering  only  for  the  moment  that  he 
could  have  been  one  of  the  attractive  characters  in  The 
Forsyte  Saga.  He  was  blond,  tall,  clean-looking;  he  spoke 
in  the  clipped,  allusive,  diffident  way  proper  to  such 
characters  in  Galsworthy.  He  was  Tom  Merry  grown  up 
and  carrying  his  share  of  the  White  Man's  Burden.  Where 
had  I  seen  him?  Why  was  he  lodged  in  my  mind?  To  what 
important  experience  was  he  the  clue? 

He  slipped  from  my  consciousness  via  the  familiar  stages 
and  was  flashed  back  the  next  day  in  the  familiar  pattern 
of  recapture.  A  morning  in  August  1937,  The  Llangibby 
Castle  at  anchor  off  St.  Helena,  the  young  Englishman 
standing  at  my  side  watching  with  me  the  boatloads  of  pas- 
sengers being  rowed  ashore,  a  brief  conversation — the  only 
one  I  had  with  him  during  the  seventeen-day  voyage.  He 
was  a  colonial  administrator  in  Kenya,  homeward  bound 
on  leave.  I  sat  back  to  back  with  him  at  meals;  I  had  heard 
him  talk  about  his  home,  his  people,  tennis,  hunting,  al- 
ways using  odds  and  ends  of  sentences,  a  glancing  kind  of 
talk  which  might  or  might  not  conceal  an  articulate  person- 

He  addressed  me  suddenly:  "Shall  you  be  going  ashore?" 

"I  don't  think  so,"  I  answered.  I  did  not  care  to  see 
where  Napoleon  had  died;  I  was  working  on  a  book;  be- 
sides, the  day  was  hot  and  close. 

After  a  pause  he  murmured:  "That  man  in  Germany  is 
going  to  be  the  Napoleon  of  the  twentieth  century." 

I  was  startled.  It  sounded  like  an  invitation  to  an  ex- 
change of  views;  and  perhaps  it  was  only  a  friendly  ad- 
monishment not  to  miss  a  unique  opportunity. 



I  said,  cautiously:  "You  mean  he's  going  to  make  a  mess 
of  it,  like  Napoleon?" 

"I  rather  fancy  he  won't,"  he  answered. 

I  read  admiration  and  approval  into  his  voice,  and  was 
depressed.  I  wished  that  he  had  at  least  said:  "I'm  afraid 
he  won't."  He  added:  "He  won't  make  Napoleon's  mis- 

"Such  as?" 

"Fighting  England,  for  one  thing,  I  suppose." 

"He'll  make  other  mistakes,"  I  suggested. 

"Oh,  I  dare  say." 

"He's  pretty  hard  on  the  Jews,"  I  said. 

"Yes,  so  one  hears.  But  they  do  have  to  be  put  in  their 
place,  you  know." 

He  was  detached,  thoughtful,  unmalicious,  even  kindly. 
My  depression  became  sickeningly  acute.  That  is  always 
my  reaction  when  I  run  up  against  anti-Semitism  in  some- 
one who  in  all  other  respects  seems  to  be  decent  and  con- 
siderate. It  is  there  that  the  coarse  anti-Semite,  the  ob- 
viously low,  brutal,  or  deranged  type — who  disturbs  me 
much  less — finds  his  leverage.  I  dropped  the  conversation, 
and  I  may  have  betrayed  my  feelings,  for  he  did  not  ad- 
dress me  again  during  the  remainder  of  the  voyage. 

I  watched  him  descend  the  gangplank,  and  I  changed 
my  mind  about  visiting  the  island.  The  day  was  spoiled 
for  me,  I  would  do  no  work.  I  took  one  of  the  last  boats, 
and  there  was  an  impulse  in  me  to  catch  up  with  the  young 
Englishman  and  reopen  the  discussion.  But  the  moment 
I  set  foot  on  the  shore  I  realized  the  absurdity  of  it. 

St.  Helena  is — or  was  then — a  pitiful  and  beggarly 
place.  From  a  distance  it  looks  desolate,  without  a  touch  of 
the  imposing,  and  a  closer  view  is  even  more  dismal.  The 
inhabitants  are  for  the  most  part  paupers;  the  colored  and 
the  black,  descendants  of  slaves,  seem  to  be  little  worse  off 
than  the  whites.  The  houses,  which  are  strung  along  the 


narrow  cleft  of  the  rock  and  make  up  the  one  narrow  street 
which  is  all  of  Jamestown,  are  primitive,  brick,  or  stone, 
or  yellowish  clay.  As  we  walked  slowly  inland,  ragged 
children  left  their  games  of  bobbers  and  kibs  to  beg  for 
pennies.  Adults  peddled  cheap  lace  handkerchiefs,  Wool- 
worth  necklaces,  and  postal  cards.  On  the  right  I  saw  a 
shingle:  Samuel,  Saddler.  On  the  left  there  was  a  gully  be- 
tween the  street  and  the  mountainside;  it  was  filled  with 
half-cobbled  courts  surrounded  by  wretched  huts,  the  kind 
I  had  seen  in  the  Kaffir  slums  of  Johannesburg. 

On  this  island  Napoleon  passed  the  last  six  years  of  his 
life,  the  years  of  his  prime;  not  in  Jamestown,  but  farther 
up,  at  Longwood,  the  showplace  of  St.  Helena.  I  let  the 
group  I  had  landed  with  drift  away  from  me.  Something 
was  stirring  in  me,  I  wanted  to  think  and  make  notes. 
Afterwards  I  took  a  carriage  and  arrived  at  "the  house" 
when  the  others  had  left.  It  was  less  oppressive  there  than 
in  Jamestown,  but  the  heat  still  clung  close,  unrelieved 
by  a  breath  from  the  dark,  sullen,  heaving  Atlantic.  Here, 
then,  Napoleon  ate  his  heart  out  while  the  climate  ate  at 
his  liver;  here  he  brooded,  quarreled  with  the  mean-spirited 
governor,  played  at  being  Emperor  still,  and  brooded  over 
his  "mistakes."  He  paced  the  living  room  of  the  one-story 
building  set  aside  for  him,  and  took  back  his  moves,  like 
my  friend  Shmarya  Levin  at  chess,  but  unlike  Levin  only 
in  his  mind,  and  too  late.  If  he  had  not  made  such  and  such 
a  move — that  was  the  theme  of  his  everlasting  plaint — he 
would  have  won  the  game,  he  would  not  be  here,  on  a  vol- 
canic pustule  in  the  middle  of  the  Atlantic.  He  should  not 
have  crossed  the  Memel  so  early;  he  should  not  have  spared 
the  Hohenzollern  dynasty;  at  Waterloo  he  should  have 
sent  the  Guard  forward  earlier;  he  should  not  have  en- 
trusted himself  to  the  English;  he  should  have  gone  to 
America, .  ,  "What  terrible  mistakes  I  have  made." 



I  had  been  reading  a  life  of  Napoleon  on  the  voyage, 
and  these  were  some  of  the  notes  I  had  made,  thinking  how 
strange  it  was  that  a  man  of  this  caliber  should  identify 
the  forces  of  history  with  his  hit  or  miss  decisions  on  the 
field  of  battle.  Less  strange,  great  men  being  what  they  are, 
were  his  delusions  of  a  world-revolutionizing  moral  mis- 
sion. "My  aim  was  the  social  regeneration  of  Europe  .  .  . 
I  was  never  the  aggressor!  Striving  for  dominion?  I  wanted 
to  found  a  European  system,  a  European  code  of  laws,  a 
European  court  of  appeal;  there  would  have  been  only  one 
people  throughout  Europe  ...  I  was  obliged  to  daunt 
Europe  by  force  of  arms  ...  I  am  dying  before  my  time, 
murdered  by  the  English  oligarchy." 

Only  now  and  again  he  permits  himself  a  doubt.  "In 
the  present  day,  the  way  to  convince  Europe  is  reason."  He 
does  not  follow  up  with  the  inevitable  conclusion  that  his 
greatest  mistake,  the  supreme  and  irreparable  mistake,  lay 
in  his  being  a  Napoleon. 

These  reflections  floated  on  the  surface  of  my  mind. 
Under  them,  breaking  through  occasionally,  was  my  young 
Englishman.  What  was  it  that  attracted  him  to  a  figure  like 
Hitler?  How  did  evil  men,  demonic  hungerers  for  power, 
establish  their  hold  over  "decent"  people?  Is  it  because 
"decent"  people  aren't  really  decent,  because  they  too,  the 
"simple,  innocent  ones"  too,  hunger  for  power  and  satisfy 
their  hunger  vicariously,  by  worship  of  the  power-bearer 
and  self-  association  with  him? 

On  the  way  back  from  Longwood  I  left  the  carriage  a 
half  mile  or  so  from  the  wharf  and  sat  down  on  a  stone 
opposite  the  house  of  Samuel,  Saddler.  I  was  in  a  tremen- 
dous state  of  excitement.  The  book  I  was  working  on  had 
become  unimportant;  I  wanted  suddenly,  overwhelmingly, 
to  write  about  power  and  its  relation  to  simple  people, 
some  kind  of  novel,  in  which  the  problem  would  unfold 


through  personalities.  But  not  a  novel  of  contemporaneous 
life;  a  historical  novel  rather,  a  parable,  illuminating  our 
present  perplexities  while  avoiding  direct  collision  with 
the  political  passions  and  prejudices  of  our  day. 

I  had  not  the  faintest  notion  where  to  begin,  what  set- 
ting and  what  personality  to  fasten  on,  and  all  the  way  to 
Southampton  I  tried  to  shake  myself  free  of  the  obsession. 
It  was  perfectly  senseless.  This  was  not  my  line  of  work;  it 
called  for  qualities  of  the  imagination  in  which  I  was 
lacking;  and  it  would  mean  years  of  research. 

Here  again  I  must  pause  over  the  interplay  between  the 
purposive  and  the  accidental  in  my  life.  The  day  after  we 
docked  I  picked  up  in  London,  at  Foyle's,  Villari's  four- 
volume  life  of  Machiavelli,  and  I  had  not  read  ten  pages 
before  I  realized  that  here  was  my  perfect  setting — Renais- 
sance Italy;  here  was  my  perfect  theoretician  of  Fascism, 
Machiavelli;  and  here  was  my  perfect  villain,  Cesare  Borgia, 
whom  Machiavelli  admired  so  extravagantly.  They  were 
made  as  if  to  order.  And  I  ask  myself:  if  the  young  English- 
man on  the  boat  hadn't  addressed  me,  or,  addressing  me, 
hadn't  said  what  he  said,  would  I  have  gone  ashore  at  St. 
Helena?  Probably  not.  Would  the  obsession  to  write  a 
novel  on  the  power  theme  have  taken  hold  of  me  anyhow? 
Perhaps.  If  I  hadn't  chanced  on  Villari's  Machiavelli  when 
I  did,  would  I  have  chosen  Cesare  Borgia  as  my  symbol  of 
evil,  and  invented  Giacomo  Orso,  child  of  the  Romagna — 
Mussolini's  birthplace  and  the  scene  of  Cesare  Borgia's 
first  triumphs — as  my  symbol  of  the  decent  young  man? 
Most  probably  not.  Nor  would  I  have  devoted  ten  years 
to  the  study  of  the  Italian  Renaissance  in  order  to  write 
Web  of  Lucifer,  of  which  one  critic  observed:  "His  know- 
ledge of  the  times  seems  prodigious."  Honesty  compels  me 
to  say  that  my  knowledge  of  the  times  was  in  fact  con- 
siderable and  I  must  add  that  the  accumulation  of  the 



knowledge  meant  far  more  to  me  than  the  writing  of  the 

I  have  done  much  traveling  in  connection  with  my  pro- 
fession, and  I  have  noticed  that  practically  all  the  informa- 
tion I  have  picked  up  in  my  travels  I  could  have  obtained 
from  books.  When  I  am  introduced  at  a  lecture  as  an 
authority  on  Israel  because  I  have  spent  so  much  time  in 
the  country,  I  call  to  mind  a  conversation  I  once  had  in  a 
place  called  Edgecomb,  a  suburb  of  Durban,  on  the  Indian 
Ocean.  I  was  taken  to  visit  an  invalid  who  because  of  some 
dangerous  allergy  had  been  confined  to  his  room  for 
twenty  years.  He  was  a  dedicated  Zionist.  He  had  never 
seen  Palestine  and  could  never  hope  to  see  it.  He  contrib- 
uted to  the  Zionist  funds  and  subscribed  to  all  the  Pales- 
tinian dailies,  weeklies,  monthlies.  He  read,  as  fast  as  he 
could  get  them,  all  the  books,  in  English,  Hebrew,  and 
Yiddish,  that  were  in  any  way  connected  with  Palestine; 
and  he  carried  on  a  copious  correspondence  with  a  number 
of  people  in  the  country.  I  cannot  tell  whether  he  sent  for 
me — as  he  did  for  every  visiting  Zionist  lecturer — because 
he  hoped  to  learn  something  from  me  or  because  he 
wanted  to  show  off  his  knowledge,  which  was  in  fact  "pro- 
digious"— certainly  far  deeper  than  mine.  He  was  at  home 
in  the  geography  of  the  country,  and  talked  of  its  cities 
and  villages  as  one  who  had  moved  among  them  all  his 
life,  had  watched  their  development  at  first  hand  since 
their  beginnings.  He  knew  in  detail  the  condition  of  every 
colony,  whether  commune,  co-operative,  or  free  enterprise, 
and  followed  passionately  all  the  controversies  that  agitated 
the  community.  He  was  an  expert  on  the  politics  and 
finances  of  Palestine.  He  asked  me  many  questions,  and 
corrected  or  supplemented  whatever  answers  I  gave  him. 
One  question  in  particular  staggered  me.  "Can  you  tell 
me  the  inside  story  why  Golden  and  Feitlovitch  stopped 


advertising  in  Davar  though  they  continue  to  advertise  in 
Ha-Aretz?"  All  I  knew  was  the  name  of  the  firm  of  linen 
drapers,  and  its  location  on  the  Nachlat  Benyamin  Street 
in  Tel  Aviv. 

Travel  has  meant  for  me,  chiefly,  stimulation  and  mem- 
ory aid.  What  I  read  about  a  place  I  no  doubt  remember 
more  easily  for  having  been  there,  but  if  I  were  to  spend 
on  travelers'  accounts  the  time  and  energy  consumed  by 
my  traveling  I  would  be  better  off.  Macaulay  tells  us  that 
Edmund  Burke,  preparing  his  case  against  Warren  Has- 
tings, read  up  so  assiduously  on  India,  which  he  had  never 
visited,  that  he  became  the  leading  authority  on  it,  far 
better  informed  than  officials  who  had  spent  many  years 
there.  In  our  own  day,  Robert  Graves  produced  his  superb 
novels  on  Claudius  without  ever  having  set  eyes  on  Rome; 
and  Marchette  Chute  produced  her  classic  account  of 
Shakespeare  and  Shakespeare's  London  exclusively  from 
materials  in  the  New  York  Public  Library. 

The  stimuli  I  have  received  from  my  travels  have  been 
those  of  a  particular  scene  or  episode  during  a  particular 
moment  of  sensitivity;  and  the  scene  need  not  have  been 
new  to  me.  The  account  I  give  of  the  birth  of  my  novel 
The  Second  Crucifixion  in  the  opening  chapter  is  in  sub- 
stance not  fictional.  I  had  often  been  in  Rome,  I  had  often 
lingered  among  the  ruins  of  the  Forum.  But  on  the  occa- 
sion I  describe,  something  unpredictable  and — for  me — 
momentous  did  in  fact  happen.  That  something  I  have 
fictionalized  as  a  woman's  voice  speaking  to  me  across 
eighteen  centuries.  It  was  less,  and  more,  than  that.  It  was 
the  onset  of  a  compulsion  to  write  a  novel  about  Hadrianic 
Rome,  about  the  Judaism  and  Christianity  of  that  time, 
and  about  the  manner  in  which  anti-Semitism  crystallized 
and  fastened  itself  into  the  body  of  Christendom,  to  en- 
dure until  our  own  time.  I  fought  against  the  compulsion 



just  as,  exactly  ten  years  earlier,  I  had  fought  against  the 
compulsion  to  write  Web  of  Lucifer,  and  as  on  the  previ- 
ous occasion,  I  argued  and  fumed  in  vain.  I  had  to  write 
that  book,  and  I  wrote  it  as  I  had  written  Web  of  Lucifer, 
more  or  less  mutinously.  But  I  enjoyed  thoroughly  the  ten 
years  of  research  that  went  into  it.  I  could  have  continued 
reading  up  on  early  Christian-Jewish  relations  for  many 
years;  so  also  with  the  Renaissance  when  I  had  finished 
Web  of  Lucifer.  It  was  not  a  flagging  interest  that  made  me 
stop  in  both  cases — I  still  leaf  through  the  books  with 
enjoyment — it  was  rather  the  fear  that  if  I  went  on  for 
much  longer  I  would  turn  into  a  scholar,  and  then  what 
would  become  of  me?  For  the  same  reason  I  will  go  no 
further  with  my  scientific  studies,  but  content  myself  with 
keeping  fresh  in  my  mind  the  little  I  have  acquired. 

Thus  far,  not  all  my  far-off  experiences  are  subject  to 
the  recent  caprices  of  my  memory.  I  have  a  standby  treas- 
ury, collected  in  the  course  of  my  travels,  which  is  still 
immediately  accessible,  and  on  sleepless  nights  I  choose 
at  will  what  I  want  to  relive. 

I  am  flying  southward  along  the  Nile.  There  is  a  sliver 
of  moon  above  the  horizon  as  we  leave  Heliopolis,  but  it 
fails  to  illumine  the  ground,  and  the  river  is  hidden  from 
us  as  we  move  toward  the  Lybian  desert.  A  hint  of  light  is 
born  in  the  east  toward  the  Red  Sea,  it  takes  on  color,  it 
becomes  an  aureole  shading  softly  into  the  vast,  starry  blue- 
blackness.  It  changes,  it  passes  through  pink  and  dull  red 
into  crimson  and  radiant  rose.  The  depths  pulsate,  waves 
of  counter-color  come  back  from  the  zenith,  subtle  green 
and  heliotrope  and  violet.  The  patches  along  the  Nile 
become  visible  under  us,  rectangular  little  fields  which 
might  be  the  levels  of  an  English  countryside.  The  lamps 
of  the  villages  glimmer  here  and  there.  The  Nile  curves 
away  and  we  are  above  the  empty  desert.  The  light  in  the 



east  gains,  loses  color.  In  the  cool,  lucid  dawn  the  river 
comes  back  to  us  and  we  descend  at  Assyut.  To  one  side 
o£  the  field  an  Arab,  kneeling  on  his  mat,  bows  himself  to 
the  East  three  times.  Someone  nudges  me  and  says:  "Isn't 
that  dumb?" 

When  we  rise  again,  the  fullness  of  day  is  upon  us,  and 
from  a  height  of  ten  thousand  feet  I  look  down  again  upon 
the  Nile.  From  that  height  it  is  a  thin,  rippleless,  acci- 
dental, shallow  spill  drawn  across  the  illimitable,  arid 
waste,  a  green-bordered  thread  making  an  irregular  diam- 
eter across  an  immense,  circular  vacancy.  I  feel,  I  under- 
stand, I  am  drawn  into  the  immemorial  struggle  of  life 
with  the  fierce  wilderness.  The  strip  of  growth  which 
persists  along  the  banks  never  strays  into  the  desert;  the 
two  never  fraternize  or  intermingle;  they  hold  each  other 
at  bay,  neither  of  them  giving  or  gaining  an  inch. 

Seen  thus,  the  Nile  is  a  frail,  provisional  powerless 
thing.  The  desert  on  either  side  need  only  shrug  its  flank, 
send  out  a  puff,  unfold  a  lap,  and  the  ribbon  would  shrivel 
and  vanish.  The  persistence  of  the  river  has  something 
awful  about  it;  it  is  the  persistence  of  life  itself,  an  inex- 
plicable obstinacy  fed  from  an  invisible  and  mysterious 
source.  Now  I  understand  why  they  had  to  worship  the 
Nile,  not  simply  because  it  was  the  fructifier  and  bread- 
giver,  but  because  it  was  the  affirmation  of  life  in  the  midst 
of  surrounding  death,  the  cry  of  defiance  in  the  face  of  the 
hot,  engulfing  desert. 

Except  for  this  incredible  thing,  the  Nile,  the  desert 
under  us  seems  omnipotent.  Its  intractable  sands  are  rein- 
forced by  ridged,  stony  heights.  When  the  sun  is  near  the 
horizon,  the  desert  is  scarped,  cracked,  ravined,  with  every 
variety  of  design,  every  kind  of  hilltop,  sides  that  slope, 
sides  that  are  sudden  and  precipitous,  sides  that  retreat 
into  caverns.  All  is  dappled  with  sharp  light  and  shadow, 



like  the  concave  edge  of  the  moon  seen  through  a  tele- 
scope. As  the  sun  rises  the  shadows  shrink,  they  become 
flakes,  they  withdraw  into  the  foot  of  the  hills  and  disap- 
pear. Then  the  desert  receives  the  full  blast  of  the  sun 
and  bakes,  and  bakes,  and  bakes,  and  the  heart  becomes 
faint  at  the  sight  and  thought  of  it. 

They  say  that  hereabouts  rain  never  falls.  Never!  These 
regions  belong  to  a  dead  planet:  below  us,  no  birds,  no 
animals,  no  insects.  There  is  not,  I  feel,  even  a  microbe 
in  the  air.  There  is  only  yellow,  blistering  sand  turning 
to  bronze  at  the  horizon;  there  is  convulsive  black  rock, 
and  heat,  relentless,  intolerable  heat.  As  long  as  we  are 
aloft  I  only  see  it,  but  as  the  downward  glide  begins,  the 
feel  of  it  closes  in  on  me,  the  capsule  turns  into  an  oven, 
the  arms  of  my  seat  are  hot  to  the  touch;  and  when  I  step 
out  of  the  plane  I  am  caught  in  a  double  blast  between 
the  burning  earth  and  the  fiery  sun. 

The  heat  is  dry  as  far  as  Atbara  in  the  Sudan;  below 
Khartoum  it  is  a  steaming,  nauseous  heat.  In  the  north 
the  narrow  runlet  of  the  Nile  asserts  itself  against  the  with- 
ering hostility  of  the  desert;  in  the  south  it  is  lost  to  view 
in  the  Soud,  which  is  neither  land  nor  water  but  a  primal 
ooze.  Here  and  there  we  see  islands;  they  are  mostly  tangles 
of  vegetation,  roots  and  scum  without  foundation,  a  replica 
of  the  carboniferous  era.  Where  the  soil  is  firm,  it  is  cov- 
ered by  an  uncontrollable  jungle,  a  richness  of  life  in  the 
primitive  which  leaves  no  room  for  anything  else;  man  is 
almost  choked  out  by  the  wanton  generosity  of  nature.  The 
insects,  birds,  reptiles,  like  the  insane  vegetation,  riot 
unrestrained.  In  the  north  a  little  shifting  of  the  desert 
would  dry  out  all  the  works  of  man;  here  an  extra  spurt 
of  biologic  prodigality  would  engulf  and  dissolve  them.  I 
think  of  ancient  civilizations  in  the  Sahara,  in  South 
America,  in  Asia,  which  have  been  wiped  out  by  too  little 



or  too  much,  by  nature's  bitter  parsimony  or  her  ferocious, 
suffocating  extravagance.  The  panorama  of  man's  long 
contest  with  her  unrolls  before  me,  the  supreme  drama 
of  our  planet,  the  story  of  stories.  Where  and  how  did  it 
begin?  At  what  point  in  place  and  time  did  this  animal 
get  the  start  toward  the  mastery  of  the  blindly  indifferent 
environment  which  had  given  it  birth?  The  shambling 
biped  with  opposable  finger  and  thumb  which  is  our  image 
of  the  first  hominid  emerges  far  down  the  road  of  evolu- 
tion. Remote  ancestors  of  his  had  already  learned  the 
crucial  trick  of  passing  on  to  their  progeny,  by  means  o£ 
special  sounds  and  gestures,  something  more  than  instincts 
developed  through  random  mutations  played  on  by  natural 
selection;  they  had  already  overcome  life's  built-in  handi- 
cap of  the  sequestered  genes,  circumventing  the  intrans- 
missibility  of  acquired  characteristics  by  transmitting 
acquired  knowledge.  Man  had  arrived,  the  halfway  crea- 
ture, doing  what  had  never  been  done  before — a  species 
planning  its  future.  Nature,  groping  undirected  for  a 
billion  years,  had  begotten  the  directed;  the  accidental  had 
monkeyed  around  until  it  had  produced  the  purposive  1 

But  was  it  so?  Could  intelligenceless  atoms  jigging  about 
for  a  billion  billion  years  have  hit  upon  a  self-conserving, 
self-developing  intelligence?  Here  was  the  riddle  of  rid- 
dles, the  ultimate  riddle,  by  comparison  with  which  all 
other  themes  are  trivialities. 

Below  the  Sudan  the  heat  becomes  dry  and  scarifying 
again.  When  I  step  out  of  the  plane  at  M'beya,  it  is  as  if  I 
had  been  shoved  into  Nebuchadnezzar's  furnace.  A  scat- 
tered circle  of  all  but  naked  Negroes,  to  whom  the  plane 
is  still  a  novelty  and  a  portent,  is  drawn  about  the  field.  I 
feel  I  am  moving  in  a  Wellsian  fantasy.  Everything  is 
intensely  unreal,  surrealistic,  and  as  I  walk  in  a  daze  across 
the  field  it  seems  to  me  that  I  am  hearing  my  name  called 
in  thin,  selenite  voices  with  a  Yiddish  accent.  "Mr.  Semuell 



Mr.  Semuel!"  I  seem  to  see  two  figures  running  toward 

I  stop  dead;  this  is  pure  hallucination. 

The  twinkling  figures  draw  nearer;  two  smiling,  eager 
faces,  hands  thrust  out  at  me,  voices  in  a  mixture  of  Eng- 
lish and  Yiddish.  "Mr.  Semuel!  Mr.  Semuel!  Welcome! 
God  be  thanked  for  your  arrival." 

It  is  not  hallucination.  The  men  are  flesh  and  blood, 
their  voices  are  human,  and  as  I  walk  with  them  toward 
the  airport  hut,  they  continue  to  chant:  "Excuse  us!  We 
recognized  you  from  the  picture.  We  couldn't  wait.  We 
can't  tell  you  what  this  means  to  us." 

In  the  hut  I  slowly  get  my  bearings.  The  dazzle  of  the 
sun  and  the  vertiginous  panorama  of  the  ages  die  away;  I 
am  in  the  here  and  now.  A  welcoming  committee  in  this 
most  improbable  of  places.  But  how?  There  isn't  supposed 
to  be  a  Jewish  community  within  a  thousand  miles. 

"You  don't  know  us,  Mr.  Semuel,  but  we  know  you.  I 
am  Chaim  Leffert  and  this  is  my  brother  Jacob  Leffert. 
We  read  in  the  Zionist  Record  of  South  Africa  that  you 
are  going  to  lecture  down  there  and  were  coming  by  plane, 
and  the  plane  goes  from  Cairo  to  Capetown  every  three 
days,  so  we  reckoned,  according  to  the  date  of  your  first 
lecture,  that  you'd  be  on  the  plane  of  three  days  ago  or 
on  this  plane.  So  we  were  here  three  days  ago,  and  no  sign 
of  you.  But  you  are  here  today.  And  why  were  we  here 
three  days  ago,  and  why  are  we  here  today?  Because  one 
perishes  here  for  a  Jewish  word — and  you  come  to  us 
straight  from  the  land  of  Israel." 

The  porter  carries  my  bag  to  the  rondavel  assigned  to 
me.  The  Leffert  brothers  accompany  us,  two  lean,  sun- 
burned men  of  about  my  age,  bearded,  in  shorts  and  open 
shirts  and  soiled  topees.  We  sit  over  cold  drinks  and  the 
story  unfolds. 

They  come  from  Vilna,  which  they  left  in   1914  for 


Central  Africa,  dreaming  of  gold  and  ivory  and  quick 
fortunes — and  then  Palestine,  where  they  would  buy  them- 
selves large  orange  groves.  They  found  neither  gold  nor 
ivory,  and  in  the  meantime  the  war  cut  them  off  from 
their  home.  They  went  to  South  Africa  and  tried  "smous- 
ing" — peddling — in  the  villages  of  the  Rand.  Others  had 
reached  wealth  from  such  beginnings,  but  it  took  too  long. 
The  war  ended  and,  poor  and  hopeful  as  ever,  they  went 
north  again,  lured  by  the  rumor  of  quicker  returns  from 
sesame  and  coffee.  The  years  went  by  and  they  still  had  not 
made  enough  for  as  much  as  ten  dunams  of  orange  land. 
Some  of  their  relatives  at  home  had  died;  others  had 
migrated;  no  one  was  left  to  write  to,  and  here  they  were, 
in  the  African  wilds,  and  it  was  1933,  and  what  fools  they 
had  been!  They  should  have  gone  to  Palestine,  barefoot 
and  penniless,  and  pioneered  there  instead  of  squandering 
their  youth  in  the  wilderness,  with  never  a  Jewish  word 
to  delight  the  ear  or  freshen  the  heart. 

All  this  came  out  in  the  midst  of  a  hundred  questions. 
Was  the  new  Jewish  homeland  growing  as  marvelously  as 
the  papers  said?  Had  I  really  seen  Jerusalem  and  Tel  Aviv 
and  Haifa  and  the  Jordan?  they  asked,  and  they  laughed 
as  they  asked;  it  was  only  a  manner  of  speech,  they  ex- 
plained, for  of  course  I  had  seen  those  fabulous  places,  I 
had  just  come  from  there.  I  wouldn't  by  chance  have  met 
so-and-so,  a  Vilna  boy  who  went  out  to  Palestine  in  1913? 
Or  so-and-so,  from  Grodno,  a  cousin  of  theirs?  No?  "Write 
down  their  names.  You're  going  back  to  the  Yishuv.  You 
might  come  across  them." 

When  they  heard  that  I  had  been  in  Vilna  they  started 
from  their  seats  and  the  tears  came  to  their  eyes.  What?  I 
had  seen  the  Gaon's  klaus,  and  the  Ostrobramow,  and  the 
Bristol  Hotel,  and  the  Synagogue  Yard?  Did  I  know  the 
Ramaille  Street?  Yes,  I  remembered  that  too.  But  they 



were  born  on  the  Ramaille  Street,  and  I,  a  total  stranger, 
had  actually  seen  it! 

It  was  as  if,  in  their  isolation,  they  had  begun  to  suspect 
that  their  boyhood  had  been  a  dream  which  they  had 
dreamed  in  common. 

We  talked  through  the  afternoon,  we  told  each  other 
stores  of  Chassidim  and  Misnagdim  and  of  famous  Lith- 
uanian Jews.  I  recited  for  them  verses  from  Bialik  and 
Abraham  Reisin,  and  we  sang  together  Peretz's  The  Three 
Seamstresses  and  Goldfaden's  In  a  Corner  of  the  Temple. 
When  they  left  they  embraced  me  as  if  I  had  been  a 
brother.  "You  don't  know,"  they  said,  "what  a  mitzvah 
you  have  performed." 

That  night  I  thought  no  more  about  the  aeons  and  the 
marvels  of  evolution.  I  thought  of  the  Leffert  brothers 
(will  chance  bring  this  page  to  their  living  eyes?),  and  it 
seemed  to  me  that  if  there  is  a  Hand  that  writes,  and  keeps 
an  accounting  of  our  good  and  bad  deeds,  my  most  valu- 
able entries  on  the  credit  side  of  the  ledger  will  be  the 
moments  of  comfort  which  my  travels  have  enabled  me  to 
bring  to  lost  and  homesick  Jews  "hungering  for  a  Jewish 

I  will  tell  of  one  more  mitzvah  of  this  kind,  one  that  is 
forever  associated  in  my  memory  with  the  onset  of  a  "high 
moment."  It  goes  back  nearly  forty  years,  to  the  time  of  my 
service  with  the  Zionist  Organization  of  America.  A  Yid- 
dish letter  in  an  old  man's  hand  came  one  day  to  the  head 
office  in  New  York  from  Tucson,  Arizona.  He  had  read  in 
the  newspaper,  the  writer  said,  that  a  certain  Mr.  Samuel, 
having  recently  returned  from  a  visit  to  Palestine,  was 
being  sent  to  address  meetings  in  Los  Angeles.  There  were 
then  thirty  thousand  Jews  in  Los  Angeles  (they  number 
nearly  half  a  million  today),  in  Tucson  there  was  only  a 
handful  of  Jews,  most  of  them  elderly  people  who  had 


settled  there  for  their  health.  "It  is  true,"  said  the  letter, 
"that  we  are  fewer  than  the  few  who  went  down  with 
Jacob  our  Father  into  Egypt,  and  we  can  do  little  toward 
the  Redemption;  therefore  your  speakers  always  pass  us 
by,  coming  and  going  between  Los  Angeles  and  New  York, 
and  we  are  left  like  a  lodge  in  a  cucumber  field.  But  our 
souls  are  Jewish,  and  surely,"  the  letter  went  on,  with 
many  apt  Biblical  quotations,  "surely  for  once  your 
speaker  can  set  out  a  day  earlier  or  return  a  day  later  and 
bring  to  this  Remnant  of  the  Escape  a  living  Jewish  word 
from  the  land  of  our  fathers."  Thus  it  came  to  pass  that 
as  a  summer  night  was  drawing  to  its  close  I  stepped  off  the 
train  at  Tucson,  where  a  committee  was  waiting  for  me; 
and  what  with  the  dim  moonlight,  and  the  palm  trees,  and 
the  exotic  softness  of  the  air,  and  my  lightheadedness  due 
to  lack  of  sleep,  I  was  suddenly  double.  One  me  carried  on 
according  to  program,  a  propagandist  of  the  Zionist  Or- 
ganization on  an  unprofitable  but  ungrudged  assignment 
to  a  tiny  out-of-the-way  community;  the  other  me  was 
elsewhere  in  time  and  space.  Twenty-six  centuries  closed 
up,  and  the  globe  of  the  earth  had  spun  through  a  third 
of  a  circle.  I  saw  myself  as  an  emissary  of  the  Prophets 
among  exiles  on  the  banks  of  the  Khebar  or  the  Nile.  The 
Destruction  had  taken  place  only  yesterday;  a  few  years 
would  pass  and  God  would  give  the  signal  for  the  Return. 
"Patience,  fellow-Jews!  God  is  slow  to  anger,  but  quick  to 

These  visitations,  these  "high  moments,"  stand  outside 
the  ordinary  excitements  I  often  find  in  my  work.  They  are 
special  seizures  and  intoxications  and  trances,  unearned 
bonuses  handed  out  to  me  irregularly  and  unexpectedly, 
reassurances  that  I  can  still  get  out  of  life  more  than  I 
consciously  put  into  it,  reminders,  too,  of  the  generosity  of 
a  world  I  never  made. 


A  Note  on  the  Type 

This  book  was  set  on  the  Linotype  in  "Baskerville," 
a  facsimile  of  the  type  designed  by  John  Baskerville, 
Birmingham,  England,  in  1754.  The  original  Basker- 
ville type  was  one  of  the  forerunners  of  the 
"modem"  style  of  type  faces.  The  Linotype  copy 
was  cut  under  the  supervision  of  George  W.  Jones  of 

Composed,  printed,  and  hound  by 

The  Haddon  Craftsmen,  Inc.,  Scranton,  Pa. 

Typography  based  on  originals  by 


A  Note  About  the  Author 

MAURICE  SAMUEL  was  born  in  Rumania  in  1895 
and  was  educated  in  England.  In  1914  he  mi- 
grated to  the  United  States,  and  since  1921  he 
has  traveled  extensively  in  this  country  and 
abroad,  partly  as  lecturer  and  partly  to  acquire 
information.  His  major  interest  for  nearly  fifty 
years  has  been  the  position  of  the  Jev^ish  people 
in  the  Western  world;  of  his  twenty  books, 
fifteen  are  concerned  with  the  exposition  of 
Jewish  values  or  the  relations  between  the 
Jewish  and  Christian  worlds. 

August  196) 







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Little  did  I  know;  recollections  an  main 


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